Fake Alcon contact lens seller fined by UK court

A woman who sold counterfeit contact lenses that put purchasers at serious risk of harm has been fined £2,500 ($3,500) at Newcastle Crown Court in the UK.

Zahra Gillani (31) bought the lenses from Chinese online retail giant Alibaba for around $1.75 per pair, and sold them on through a business called Alluring Lenses via Facebook for £15.

Some of the lenses were found to be counterfeits of Alcon unit Ciba Vision's FreshLook Colorblends and Freshtones coloured lenses, some of which are designed to be worn for a month if cleaned and stored properly each night.

Gillani pleaded not guilty, but a jury convicted her of three counts of selling counterfeit goods, one count of possession of counterfeits, and one count of  copying a registered trademark, according to a BBC report.

A raid on her home in Newcastle in 2018, uncovered packets of lenses and packaging, although Gillani insisted that she believed she was selling genuine products.

The judge in the court was not convinced, saying that Gillani's job as a pharmaceutical sales rep – which she had now lost – meant she should have known better.

The British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) has issued advice that buying cosmetic lenses from unregistered sellers can have dramatic consequences to eye health, including a risk of corneal ulcers and infections.

"Cosmetic lenses found in fashion retail outlets, market stalls and from unregistered online sellers are distributed on a 'one size fits all' basis," it says.

"To minimise the risks of infection and ongoing eye health issues, it is essential that all lenses are individually prescribed by a fully qualified professional."

A US study published in 2017 found that almost two-thirds of 300 samples of counterfeit contact lenses tested positive for microbial contamination, some with species linked to serious eye problems like Bacillus cereus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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