The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and state and territory fair trading agencies have found retailers selling non-compliant sunglasses in a joint nationwide surveillance program.

Between August and November 2013, 15,000 product lines were tested across major retailers, specialty stores, optometrists, chemists, discount stores, newsagents, service stations and convenience stores.

“Disappointingly, nearly one in seven of the products surveyed failed to comply with product safety laws,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“Over 2,400 sunglasses from across the retail market, including speciality stores and major retailers, were removed from sale for having no mandatory lens category labelling and for failing lens performance requirements,” Ms Rickard said.

“Exposing your eyes to high levels of sunlight may cause serious and sometimes irreversible eye damage such as cataracts and eyelid cancers, so it’s essential that your sunglasses offer adequate UV protection,” Optometrists Association Australia National CEO Genevieve Quilty said.

Ms Rickard said that lens category labelling was important as it allowed consumers to choose the right level of sun and glare protection for their needs to prevent serious and permanent damage to their eyes.

“Look for sunglasses labelled category 2, 3 or 4 to give your eyes the best UV protection but avoid categories 1 and 4 while driving,” Ms Rickard said.

Consumer research commissioned by the ACCC found Australians rate eye protection and safety very highly when looking to buy sunglasses.

The ACCC also found that 92 per cent of shoppers who are aware of the lens category labels would likely check them before buying, and most find them very useful in their sunglass purchasing decisions, although 41 per cent of consumers are still unaware these labels exist.

 “Levels of UV protection and glare reduction are top factors for Australians purchasing sunglasses, rating well above brand and fashion trends,” Ms Rickard said.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, sunglasses and fashion spectacles sold in Australia must comply with mandatory lens category labelling and minimum levels of lens performance, among other things – non-compliance can mean penalties of up to $1.1million.

The ACCC will continue to monitor the market and work with suppliers and relevant industry associations to raise compliance levels across the industry.

More information on the campaign including the research report is available at Safe Sunnies.

Safety tips

  • Look for sunglasses labelled category 2, 3 or 4 to give your eyes the best UV protection.
  • Choose the right sunglasses for you and your activity. Talk to your optometrist or sunglass specialist in-store to help you choose the right pair.
  • For sport, consider durable, glare reduction sunglasses such as those with a lens category 3 or 4.
  • Some sunglasses may be unsafe to wear while driving - avoid sunglasses labelled category 1 and category 4 if you plan to wear sunglasses while driving.
  • Always wear sunglasses in combination with other UV protection measures such as remaining in the shade, wearing a hat and sunscreen.
  • Make UV eye protection part of your everyday routine, even on days when you feel the sun’s rays may be less harmful.

Information on lens categories

Lens category 0

These are fashion spectacles, not sunglasses. They have a very low ability to reduce sun glare and may provide only some or no UV protection.

Lens category 1

Like category 0 lenses, these are fashion spectacles, not sunglasses; however, they do provide limited sun glare reduction and some UV protection. Fashion spectacles with category 1 lenses are not suitable for driving at night.

Lens category 2

These sunglasses provide a medium level of sun glare reduction and good UV protection.

Lens category 3

Similar to category 2, these sunglasses provide a good level of UV protection. Lens category 3 glasses also provide a high level of sun glare reduction.

Lens category 4

These are special purpose sunglasses that provide a very high level of sun glare reduction and good UV protection.

Lens category 4 sunglasses must not be used when driving at any time.

For further safety information, visit the ACCC Product Safety Facebook page or follow us at