A 2019 customs report revealed that 41 million counterfeit articles had been seized in that year, with a total value of 673 million euros. 34% of these items were recorded as being potentially dangerous to consumers. The authorities stated that over 146 thousand pairs of counterfeit sunglasses were seized.
As a response, in the lead up to International Sunglasses Day (27th June 2019), Feel Good Contacts partnered with The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), the voice of business in shaping an effective deterrent to counterfeiting in the UK, to warn the public of the dangers of purchasing counterfeit sunglasses.
Since 1980, the ACG has aimed to help steer effective policy, promote evidenced based actions, empower multi-agency partnerships and strengthen international collaboration to put an end to counterfeit activity in the UK.
Why is wearing fake sunglasses a problem?
Fake sunglasses pose a very immediate danger. While quality, branded sunglasses meet strict safety standards, fakes don’t, and they will fail to block UV light from reaching our eyes. In fact, they can actually allow more UV light into the back of the eyes than exposure to the naked eye. As a result, fake sunglasses can cause more damage to the eyes than not wearing any sunglasses at all.
Wut Win, Dispensing Optician at Feel Good Contacts comments: “UV rays from the sun can cause significant damage which can result in sight-loss. It’s commonly known that sunglasses help to see better in bright light, and the price tag on fake sunglasses can make them a tempting option. However, unsuspecting bargain shoppers don’t always realise that the cheap glasses they’re buying actually offer little or no protection against UV rays.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that 94 million people suffer moderate to severe distance vision impairment or blindness due to cataracts. In 2019, it was estimated that over three million people go blind each year from cataracts caused or enhanced by exposure to the sun specifically. Other serious conditions can be caused by direct and prolonged exposure to the sun too, such as macular degeneration, pterygium and photokeratitis.
Potentially damaging solar UV is most prevalent at around midday in summer. Concentrated volumes increase as we move towards the equator and environmental factors like sandy terrains which reflect UV light will expose eyes to further damage.
Phil Lewis, Director General of The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), advises considering your choices very carefully. “Buying a pair of fake sunglasses on a whim has much wider implications than many imagine. 83% of all fakes come from South East Asia and are the result of workers, including children, held in some of the world’s worst sweatshop factories. In buying this increasingly dangerous junk, you’re not only helping to bring international criminality closer to our families but you are likely to be feeding the exploitation of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”
Phil Lewis adds, “The effect is also continuing to grow at home. According to the UK Government, the overall UK market in fake goods is worth £9.3 billion; which is 4% of all UK imports. Moreover, the Government has estimated it loses £1.3 billion in unpaid tax from the sale of counterfeit goods and that this figure is growing. With this comes inevitable job losses and the threat of more and more criminals entering our lives. For these reasons, we are urging the public to report any instances of fraud.”
How can I spot fake sunglasses?
In the UK, sunglasses sold in the region need to meet rigorous safety standards. Fake sunglasses do not meet these standards and therefore do not necessarily block the dangerous UV light from reaching our eyes. Consumers need to check that their glasses meet the British Standard for sunglasses (BS EN ISO 12312-1:2022). Also, look out for the CE mark (this indicates that manufacturing processes comply with the European quality standards) or UKCA mark (which indicates compliance with standards in the UK) printed on the sunglasses which all sunglasses sold legally in the UK will have.
Fake sunglasses can have missing or wrong information. To avoid being mis-sold, look on the inside of the arms. Is the brand name there, the model number and colour code? If so, it shouldn’t scratch off easily, a common trait of counterfeit glasses.
Sometimes it’s not as easy to spot a replica. In this case what will be distinguishable is the price. If it’s too good to be true, then it’s best not to buy it.
What to look out for in fake sunglasses:
You should expect exceptional quality from genuine sunglasses from designer brands. Look for high quality materials, excellent construction and attention to detail, from a neat finish around the hinges to the weight and texture of the material.
You can test the quality of the craftsmanship by feeling the arms of the glasses frames with your fingers. If the acetate or metal feels jagged or rough, they are likely not to have been made by the designer brand they claim to be.
Designer quality sunglasses will have hinges made of solid metal, which should be securely bolted to the frame using metal rivets. Look out for two on the front and two at the side. Hinges on fake models will not be as neatly fixed onto the frame. Traces of glue or melted plastic may also be visible if they are fake.
Real designer glasses will have good quality adjustable nose pads that do not move around easily but are not easily snapped. If the model has a fixed nose pad, it should be smooth, with no rough patches or lumps.
An authentic pair of designer sunglasses should have the correct brand logo printed onto the lens itself, usually on the temporal side. This is a key marker of authenticity as it is expensive and difficult for fraudsters to replicate.
How can I protect my eyes from sun damage?
Good quality sunglasses that have been bought through legal channels provide the best protection from UV light. Sunglasses should always be purchased from reputable dealers as this offers the only guarantee that customers will get the sun protection that they need.
Types of UV rays
UV radiation is a central element of solar radiation. There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVC rays are the most damaging but are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere before they reach us and are not a direct threat, whilst UVA and UVB rays can have serious long- and short-term effects on the eyes and our vision.
Most common eye problems caused by UV rays:
The leading cause of age-related blindness, macular degeneration is the direct result of prolonged damage to the retina. While the condition affects your central vision and what you are able to see when you look straight ahead, it generally does not affect your peripheral vision and does not lead to complete blindness. Sight loss is mostly gradual, but in some instances, can happen more rapidly.
Cataracts are a progressive clouding of the eye’s natural lens and core focusing mechanism. UVB rays in particular increase your risk of developing certain types of cataracts, although these can be treated with surgery.
Often called surfer’s eye, pterygium (tuh-RIJ-ee-uhm) is a non-cancerous, often fleshy coloured growth that forms on the layer of conjunctiva, over the white area (sclera) of your eye and can invade the cornea. As UV light is believed to be a main factor in the formation of these growths, it is commonly linked to surfers who spend long periods in the sun and are subjected to both direct and reflected UV rays. That does not mean, however, that non-surfers will not stand a chance of developing pterygium.
Also known as corneal sunburn or snow blindness, photokeratitis is the result of high short-term exposure to UVB rays.