(This is not the same question as this one, which is regarding U.S. law.)

I recently visited my optometrist, and was informed that I will either need progressive/bifocals, or else two different prescriptions, one for "regular" (moderate distance) and one for reading/close-up.

I asked for a printout of my prescription, which I was given, but there was only a single prescription. When I asked for details (via email) on how to order two separate pairs of glasses from a single prescription, I was informed that any optician/optometrist would have everything they need from the prescription.

I said (again via email) that I wanted to order online, and the online form only requests the numbers from the prescription, so I was unsure how to use that prescription for two different pairs of glasses with different vision requirements.

At that point I was told,

In Canada it is illegal to purchase or sell prescription glasses online.
The Canadian government is ignoring the problem.

I would lose my license to practice if I participate in any selling or helping of purchasing contact lenses or glasses online

It is true also for any of my employees.

Sorry – I want to keep my license.

I looked around online, and was not able to find much information. There was apparently something that went to court in Ontario in 2019, but I wasn't able to find the outcome of that.

Most of what I can find is optometrists' websites claiming that it is illegal, and discussion forums claiming that it is not, but no official government or legal sites that have much of anything to say on the issue.

Is it in fact illegal for me to order prescription eyeglasses online?

  • If so, what are the penalties, and why does it seem to be so prevalent if it is illegal?
  • If not, why are optometrists claiming that it is? Could my optometrist in fact lose their license by aiding me with an online purchase?

EDIT: I am not in British Columbia, where it appears it is uncontestedly legal.

1 Answer 1


I am not a lawyer, but the best I've been able to determine from searching online is the following:

  • In most provinces, it is illegal to sell prescription eyeglasses to someone who does not have a prescription from a licensed professional (optometrist, optician, etc.).
  • In British Columbia, it is legal to sell prescription eyewear without the involvement of a licensed professional, but a court case in Quebec determined that a customer living in Quebec and buying prescription eyewear from a retailer in B.C. (without a prescription) would be running afoul of the law.
  • Most online retailers have circumvented the prescription requirement by requiring you to input your prescription information before allowing you to purchase prescription eyewear. There is no verification performed (anyone could input any values they like).
  • Optometrists want to safeguard public health (if you are optimistic) or have a monopoly on eyewear sales (if you are cynical), but either way, they are pushing to ban or severely limit online sales of prescription eyewear.
  • The public wants more convenience and more competition (to drive down prices), and is therefore largely in favour of online sales.
  • The government seems largely ambivalent and unwilling to take a hard stance one way or the other.

As long as you have a valid prescription from an eyecare professional, there are likely no legal consequences to buying or selling prescription eyewear online in Canada. The actual legal status is a little murky, but no buyers or sellers have been prosecuted (to my knowledge).

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I just compiled this from what I learned online. It is accurate to the best of my knowledge.

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