AOP campaign tackles illegal supply online

New AOP campaign highlighting the risks of buying contact lenses online to consumers

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is launching a new national campaign – designed to highlight the risks of illegal supply in the UK.

The campaign Know your lenses, is in response to AOP optometrist members reporting a consumer shift during the pandemic – as more patients buy their prescription contact lenses online.

In a survey of over 1000 optometrists, over half (56%) of AOP members, said they saw as many as nine patients in a month who’ve experienced problems as a result of lenses they’ve purchased online with problems spanning from poor fitting lenses (57%) which can damage the eye, blurred vision (57%) to eye infections (36%) and sight threatening conditions (12%) – with eye irritation, redness and discomfort (80%) being the most likely issues.

In the UK, contact lenses can only be supplied under the general direction or supervision of a registered practitioner. But the AOP are highlighting how some UK websites are run by companies based overseas and fall outside UK jurisdiction, meaning some products are sold illegally. The research found that over half (55%) of its members reported seeing evidence that the law is being broken by suppliers. Yet almost half (45%) of the public are unaware of this legal loophole.

Adam Sampson, Chief Executive at the Association of Optometrists said: “Illegal supply is a longstanding issue for the sector, and we’ve often reported what we suspect are illegal suppliers to the General Optical Council (GOC) to investigate. But it’s time that there is more in place to protect the public – particularly, as the trend for consumers to buy online is only set to grow. We cannot possibly afford for people to trust unregulated sites over the skills of trained eyecare professionals."

Mr Sampson added: “The GOC is currently considering a draft protocol on illegal practice. As part of that process, we urge them to rightly clamp down on suppliers that provide products that are a real risk to UK consumers.”

The Association of Optometrists is calling on the government to close the loophole which enables online suppliers to operate outside UK safety laws and suggest that suppliers carry an approved kitemark to make it clear to consumers they are buying a trustworthy and safe product.

The Know Your Lenses campaign launches on 20 October 2021. As part of the campaign, the AOP are calling on optics to support by sharing the campaign pack,

The AOP jointly produced an information leaflet Do you know the law on selling contact lenses? which sets out the facts and the GOC’s legal remit in this area. The leaflet can be used by optical practitioners who wish to advise suppliers of the law,


For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to Editors

You can download hi-res images related to the campaign via Dropbox.

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit