The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent 24 cease-and-desist letters late last month to eye care practices across the United States for failing to adhere to the Contact Lens Rule, created under the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act.
Tell me more about this act first.
Signed into law in 2003, the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) requires the FTC to develop, implement, and enforce rules that focus on improving consumer protection and ocular health for contact lens wearers.
How about the Contact Lens Rule?
As an extension of the FCLCA, the FTC issued the Contact Lens Rule in 2004 to require eye care practitioners (ECPs) to give patients a copy of their contact lens prescription—effectively allowing them the right to shop around when purchasing contact lenses—whether or not they ask for a copy or if the prescription changes.
The rule also prohibits prescribers from requiring patients to purchase contact lenses from their office, pay additional fees, or sign a waiver or release as a condition of verifying or releasing a prescription.
Now talk about these violations.
The FTC letters were sent as reminders to the ECP offices to reiterate their obligations and addressed complaints of some prescribers failing to provide appropriate information, such as the manufacturer and trade name of private label (or store-brand) lenses, which could prevent patients from being able to comparison shop for prescriptions.
Other complaints included prescribers responding improperly when verifying prescriptions to third-party seller requests as well as obligations to provide prescriptions (or indicate if no longer current or valid) to authorized third-party requests for copies within 40 business hours.
See here for the full letter.
A portion of the letters also stipulated that some prescribers were in violation of the Eyeglass Rule, which requires eyeglass prescriptions to be provided for patients post-refractive eye exams (i.e. cataract surgery) and prohibits prescribers to charge them for their prescriptions or require eyeglass purchases.
What are the consequences?
The FTC stated that violations may result in legal action, including civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation.
Prescribers were given five business days to respond to the FTC with specifications on the action they plan to take to address the reported violations.