A Newcastle woman has been fined £2500 after she sold fake contact lenses through her Facebook business page.
Zahra Gillani, 31, was convicted of selling and possessing counterfeit goods as well as applying labels identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trademark.
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A BBC report describing the case highlighted that Gillani bought the contact lenses from the Chinese website Alibaba.
The Newcastle Crown Court heard that the website was well-known for advertising fake items.
Gillani sold the contact lenses through her Alluring Lenses business page on Facebook.
Judge Amanda Rippon said that while she believed Gillani had not known the lenses were fake it was irresponsible not to check the authenticity of the lenses or the website she purchased them from.
The contact lenses were purchased for £1.75 per pair and sold by Gillani for £15.
Gillani was not registered with the General Optical Council as a dispensing optician or optometrist.
Following her conviction, she lost her job in pharmaceutical sales.
AOP head of clinical and regulatory, Henry Leonard said that the case highlights an important issue that practitioners would like more public awareness of.
“We hope that the case serves to warn patients that there are suppliers out there selling counterfeit products that put their eye health at very serious risk. We encourage members to remind their patients of the importance of going to a reputable supplier to ensure they have the best eyecare and hygiene advice and that their contact lenses are suitably fitted,” he said.
Leonard added tips on spotting counterfeit lenses online may also be helpful for patients.
“If their normal brand of contact lens is considerably cheaper, it’s more than likely a counterfeit product and they should always be asked to provide a current prescription as part of the purchase,” he shared.
Practical advice for contact lens wearers provided by the AOP includes patient leaflets that members can download for free.
The AOP continues to work with the General Optical Council (GOC) on the issue of zero-powered lenses illegally sold on the High Street and online.
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.
In an AOP survey of over 1000 UK optometrists, more than half reported seeing patients who had issues when they had bought glasses or contact lenses online.
Information previously provided to OT shows that between 2016 and 2017, the GOC received 150 complaints about illegal contact lens sales.
Of these complaints, half were referred to trading standards officers. The remaining matters were either closed because sales ceased after the GOC made contact or could not be pursued.
Reasons the complaint could not be pursued included when sellers were outside the UK or when information did not indicate that the Opticians Act had been breached.