Boots is under investigation over allegations it misled customers buying glasses into paying extra for protection against ‘gadget glare’.
The chain could face warnings and fines as a result of an inquiry by the General Optical Council.
Boots and other opticians sold glasses using lenses with a blue light filter to thousands of people at an extra cost, on the basis they would protect their eyesight.
Boots and other British opticians sold glasses using lenses with a blue light filter to thousands of people at an extra cost, on the basis they would protect their eyesight
The lenses are said to block the supposedly harmful glare given off by smartphones, tablets, computers and LED TVs.
However, academics argue that the amount of blue light given off by screens is tiny compared to ordinary sunlight – and the lenses only filter out a very small amount of the light, about 20 per cent.
Hard-sell tactics have been used to push the blue light protection lenses, which cost £70 a pair.
Customers have been given frightening warnings that this blue light could reach the retina and damage their eyesight over time.
The General Optical Council (GOC), the watchdog for opticians, alleges that Boots:
n Failed to obtain sufficient evidence to justify claims of a direct link between harmful blue light and retinal damage;
n Failed to obtain sufficient evidence to justify claims its ‘Boots Protect Plus Blue Lenses’ filtered out a meaningful amount of harmful blue light;
n Failed to ensure claims for the marketing of the blue light protection had been approved by a suitably qualified person.
The GOC investigation stems from an Advertising Standards Authority inquiry in 2015.
The ASA investigated a Boots advertisement with the wording: ‘Many modern gadgets, whether it’s a fancy LED TV or your smartphone, as well as sunlight and energy-saving light bulbs, give off a certain kind of blue light that can cause your retinal cells to deteriorate over time.’
Boots said it could help customers protect themselves.
The ASA took advice from experts, who rejected the claims, and banned the advertisement.
A leading authority on blue light, Professor John Marshall of UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, believes mobile devices are not a real threat.
He said: ‘There are no blue light hazard concerns about mobile phones, or tablets. The emission levels are just too low and the spectral emission levels in the blue are even lower.’
While Chris Hammond, ophthalmology professor at King’s College London, said blue light from screens is ‘extremely small’ compared to that from daylight, ‘even on a grey day outside’.
But he does admit there is some evidence that exposure to blue light late at night can disturb sleeping patterns.
The case against Boots will be heard by the GOC’s Fitness to Practise committee in London on May 24. Possible sanctions include warnings and a fine of up to £50,000.
Boots Opticians said: ‘Since  we have worked with trading standards and reviewed and changed all in store materials, changed our training material to align to the trading standards guidance and we have not issued any further advertising relating to the blue lens outside of practices.’