Buying spectacles online

An increasing number of patients are buying their spectacles from online suppliers.  College- funded research1 found that spectacles purchased online were twice as likely to fail optical tolerance tests than those provided by high street practices.  

When ordering spectacles online, patients measure and provide pupillary distance readings themselves, and the research shows that a larger proportion of spectacles bought online were classed as unacceptable or unsafe because of incorrect measurements provided.   

Although, in terms of quality, fit and patient satisfaction, participants ranked high street spectacles significantly higher than online spectacles, 21% indicated they would buy their next pair of spectacles online for convenience, clarity in pricing, significantly lower prices and the lack of pressure to buy.  

The College recommends that:  

  • Patients exercise caution, and weigh up the risks, when buying spectacles online. 
  • Optometrists and dispensing opticians should explain the issues clearly to their patients, particularly in relation to progressive addition lenses, where participants in our study ranked high street spectacles significantly higher on factors such as preference and fit. 
  • Optometrists and dispensing opticians should consider the latest research in relation to the service they offer. 
  • More data is gathered to strengthen the evidence base. Current research can be improved by  recruiting a higher number of participants with a broad range of prescriptions. 


1 A Comparison of Spectacles Purchased Online and in UK Optometry Practice (2016) . Another study in the United States found that 45% of online spectacles failed at least one aspect of optical quality measures.  

Useful links 

Karl Citek et al (2011), Safety and compliance of prescription spectacles ordered by the public via the Internet, Optometry - Journal of the American Optometric Association, Volume 82, Issue 9. 

Last updated: May 2017