Sunglasses aren’t regulated in New Zealand, so we tested glasses against the Australian Consumer Goods Safety Standard for sunglasses and fashion spectacles. In addition to testing for UV protection, the standard assesses how robust the sunglasses are and how well they cover the eye.
Twenty-one pairs, including six kids’ pairs, failed our test. But we also found cheap sunnies that give good protection.
In Australia, sunglasses must comply with the Consumer Goods (Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles) Safety Standard 2017. The safety standard is based on certain requirements of the broader voluntary Australian standard. The requirements help protect consumers from the harmful effects of UV radiation and glare.
However, in New Zealand there are no requirements. Many of the products in our test claimed to comply with the Australian standard. But sunglasses that claim to meet standards with less stringent requirements – such as those in the EU or US – or meet no standard at all are also permitted.
Sunglasses are an important part of your sun protection. We think it’s time they were regulated – consumers should be guaranteed sunglasses are of reasonable quality and will protect their eyes. Regulation is also supported by the New Zealand Association of Optometrists and the Cancer Society of New Zealand.
We’d also like regulations to include regular testing requirements to ensure there aren’t issues with batch variation.
Of the 50 pairs of sunglasses we tested, 29 met all the requirements we tested, and there’s a pair to meet every budget. We found men’s, women’s and children’s sunglasses costing $20 or less that provide good eye protection and coverage and are robust so they won’t fall apart in five minutes. These would be good options if you’re always losing your sunnies or like having a spare pair handy.
It’s a lottery buying sunnies from a discount store. Only three of the nine pairs we bought from these stores passed all our tests. It’s a similar story buying knockoffs from overseas. The pairs we bought from AliExpress and Amazon both failed a technical test.
Of the 50 tested, 21 did not meet the requirements we tested. We asked companies to comment on our findings. Only 6 companies responded to our request.
What the companies told us
H&H Unisex Blond Wood Sunglasses SG1109 failed the scattered light test. The Warehouse told us these sunglasses were tested by its supplier in January 2022 and met this requirement.
Moby Polarised Texas M4-554XS failed the astigmatic refractive power test. The distributor, Eyewear Design, told us this style is no longer sold in the Moby range. The company has advised its sales team to remove any remaining pairs that may still be available.
Zephyr M2837 failed the temporal requirements of Category 4 (very dark) sunglasses. The distributor, Signature Marketing, told us this style was mistakenly labelled as a Category 4 lens. The company said it has disposed of the remaining warehouse stock, removed products from stores and will conduct a review of all Category 4 sunglasses to ensure compliance with the standard.
Te Ra Rangi sunglasses failed the refractive power test. The company retested this style and it met the requirements of the standard.
Eagle Eyes Classic Flexi Sunglasses failed the plane of polarisation test. The company told us it has contacted its supplier about this issue.
Banz Beachcomber Vespa Tour sunglasses failed the spherical power test. The company retested this style and it met the requirements of the standard.
How we test
We bought sunglasses from pharmacies, petrol stations, chain stores, clothing stores, surf shops, sunglasses stores and discount stores.
An accredited lab tested the sunglasses following methods set down in the Australian Consumer Goods (Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles) Safety Standard 2017. The safety standard is based on certain requirements of the voluntary Australian standard.
Our test assesses:
Construction and robustness.
Protective requirements: Do the sunglasses provide adequate coverage?
Resistance to ignition: Assesses whether highly flammable materials have been used in the construction of the sunglasses.
We also conducted a number of technical tests:
UV transmittance tests: Assesses UV transmittance (which helps determine the lens category). If sunglasses fail this test, it is a concern because some eye diseases can be attributed to long-term UV radiation exposure.
Scattered light test: If sunglasses fail this test, the lens may have a milky or fuzzy appearance, which can affect the view through the lens.
Prism imbalance test: If sunglasses fail this test, it can cause headaches and dizziness, and may affect judging distance.
Temporal protective requirements: This is a requirement of category 4 (very dark) sunglasses. If sunglasses fail this test, they don’t provide adequate protection from the sides.
Refractive power, spherical power, astigmatic refractive power tests: If sunglasses fail one of these tests, it can cause distortion and blurred vision. If worn for longer periods, it may cause headaches.
Plane of polarisation tests: If sunglasses fail one of these tests, it may affect judging distances.
Transmittance difference test: If sunglasses fail this test, it may affect judging distances of moving objects.
We also tested 10 pairs for resistance to solar radiation. This tests whether sunglasses still provide UV protection over time. All the pairs we tested passed this test.
The Ministry of Health funded our test.