Federal Trade Commission staff recently sent 24 cease and desist letters to eye care prescribers after receiving complaints claiming that the prescribers failed to comply with the Contact Lens Rule. Some letters also cited potential violations of the Ophthalmic Practice Rules (known as the Eyeglass Rule). These rules ensure consumers the right to comparison shop for prescription lenses. The FTC is not making the names of the prescribers receiving letters public at this time.
As detailed in the letters, the Contact Lens Rule:
- requires prescribers to provide a copy of the contact lens prescription to the patient at the end of the contact lens fitting, even if the patient does not request it;
- prohibits prescribers from requiring that patients buy contact lenses, pay additional fees, or sign a waiver or release, as a condition of releasing or verifying the prescription; and
- requires a prescriber with a direct or indirect financial interest in the sale of contact lenses to ask patients to confirm that they received their prescription by signing an acknowledgement of receipt, a prescriber-retained copy of the prescription, or a copy of the examination receipt.
Some letters also addressed complaints that prescribers were not complying with the Contact Lens Rule when they prescribe private label (or store-brand) lenses, by failing to provide information required by the rule, such as the name of the manufacturer and trade name of the private label brand. Such information allows consumers to comparison shop for the prescribed contact lens or one “identical” to the prescribed lens.
Other letters addressed complaints that prescribers were improperly responding to third-party seller requests to verify contact lens prescription information by providing general denials. The letters reminded prescribers of their obligation, if the prescription information is inaccurate, expired or otherwise invalid, to specify the basis for the inaccuracy or invalidity of the prescription and, if it is inaccurate, to correct it.
Finally, some letters addressed the Contact Lens Rule’s requirement that, when responding to authorized third-party seller requests for a copy of a consumer’s prescription, prescribers must provide the prescription (or indicate that it is no longer current or valid) within forty business hours of receipt of the request.
Where violations of the the Eyeglass Rule were alleged, the letters reminded prescribers of the requirement to provide their patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription immediately after an eye exam, even if the patient does not request it. The letters warn the prescribers that violations of the Contact Lens Rule or Eyeglass Rule may result in legal action, including civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation.
Along with the letters, staff also provided prescribers with links to its business guidance pieces, FAQs: Complying with the Contact Lens Rule and The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers and, where appropriate, Complying with the Eyeglass Rule .
The FTC has recently updated information to help consumers understand their rights under federal law. See: Buying Prescription Glasses or Contact Lenses: Your Rights.
The primary staffer responsible for the cease and desist letters announced today is Alysa Bernstein in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
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