/ Health, Shopping

Sunglasses fail key tests – can you trust the label?


If you heard that sunglasses costing less than a fiver had failed to meet the British Standard, would a little part of you not think: ‘you get what you pay for’? Well, no actually.

Why? Because if I pick up a pair of sunglasses during my weekly Tesco shop, I really wouldn’t expect them to potentially alter my depth perception due to lenses letting in differing amounts of light.

And even if I bought a pair in Poundland, perhaps thinking to myself ‘well, they won’t last forever’, I definitely wouldn’t expect to end up with blurred vision and headaches. Let alone the pair that was mislabelled and – unbeknownst to me – wouldn’t be safe to drive in.

Meeting the British Standard

So why is this an issue? Because of the 21 pairs of sunglasses we tested in our labs, every single one clearly stated that they met the British Standard. And call me old-fashioned, but I sort of think they should do what it says on the label.

We found that 15 of the 21 pairs (three each from seven retailers) failed key lab tests. And though nothing we saw would cause you long-term vision problems, I’d rather not risk making astigmatism worse (as one Primark pair could) if I could avoid it.

So, my question is: when I part with my money for sunglasses in M&S, Sainsbury’s, George at Asda, Poundland, Primark and Tesco, should I expect to take my chances? Some of the sunglasses did fine in our tests, so how are you to know whether you’re getting a good pair?

These companies disputed our findings, but we’ll be sending the worst to Trading Standards. Asda, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco told us they check their glasses meet British Standards. Asda, Poundland and Primark will be investigating immediately.

Maybe I should just start shopping at New Look – all three of its pairs passed our tests with flying colours! Do you sunglasses meet British Standards?

You can read more about the sunglasses we tested and those that failed, along with tips on buying sunglasses in our news story.


I did not appreciate that there is a British Standard for sunglasses. If that is regarded as necessary then perhaps the sale of sunglasses that don’t comply should be banned.

As I understand it products sold in the EU legally require a “CE” mark this shows that the product meets certain Safety Standards one of which is BS EN 1836:1997 .
Thus if the sunglasses do not meet the standard they cannot be sold in the EU.

Is it true that a CE mark indicates that a product conforms to the appropriate British Standard?

You can find tips for buying sunglasses in the following link, but you’ll need to check for the CE Mark *and* the British Standard BS EN 1836:2005 for adequate protection against the sun’s UV rays.


Thanks very much. My Boots polarising sunglasses have a CE mark but there is no indication of a British Standard, and they cost more that the ones tested in the Which? report. 🙁

Brett Waugh says:
12 September 2011

The details of the standards that these sunglasses adhere to are on the swing ticket.

Thanks. I wish I had kept the information.