Quebec online glasses retailers want access to Canadian market

Online perscprition glasses retailers cannot legally sell Quebecers because only opticians and optometrists are allowed to supply prescription glasses.

Only B.C. residents can legally order perscription glasses online

In 2010, Quebec's optometrist association took a B.C.-based retailer to court for selling their products in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

A Montreal-based online prescription glasses retailer, Bon Look, has grown quite a bit since it first entered the market, now shipping more than a thousand pairs a month.

Still, legally, the Quebec market is completely closed to them.

Sophie Boulanger says her startup can save customers hundreds of dollars on their prescription glasses, however, they can't sell to Quebecers because only opticians and optometrists are allowed to supply prescription glasses.

"The customer is just paying a very high price for an essential product that they could now pay at a much cheaper price," says Boulanger.

Concerns about standards

Robert Dalton is the executive director of the Opticians Association of Canada and says buying glasses online is risky.

"The only way you can be certain that something meets Canadian standards is to buy something that's within Canada and that way we can regulate what's inside of Canada," says Dalton.

In 2010, Quebec's optometrist association took a British Columbia-based retailer to court for selling their products in Quebec.

A judge has yet to rule on the case.

The rules vary within the country, and B.C. is the only province to have deregulated eyewear sales.

Boulanger says this should serve as a wake-up call.

"At the end of the day, the whole optical industry of Quebec is kind of losing by maintaining this position, this very strict position that they have," says Boulanger.


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