Published in Legal

FTC sends claim forms in LasikPlus provider settlement to consumers

This is editorially independent content
5 min read

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is notifying consumers who may have been victim to deceptive “bait-and-switch” advertising by LCA-Vision Inc., an Ohio-based company conducting business under one of the nation’s largest laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) providers: LASIKPlus and Joffee MediCenter (LASIKPlus).

Start with this company.

Founded in 1985 with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, LCA-Vision (parent company: Vision Acquisitions, LLC) is a provider of photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) in the U.S. under the LASIKPlus brand name (which was founded in 1995).

Its procedures—conducted with 100% bladeless technology and multiple laser platforms, according to the company—include custom LASIK, PRK, and monovision treatment to:

  • Correct nearsightedness
  • Correct farsightedness
  • Correct astigmatism
  • Reduce effects of presbyopia

Now LASIKPlus.

Originally known as Laser Centers of America, LASIKPlus was founded by Stephen N. Joffe, MD, known as a pioneer of medical laser technology and who was involved in one of the first laser vision correction procedures performed in North America (Canada; long before FDA approval in the U.S.).

To note, the first U.S.-based laser correction procedure was performed in a LASIKPlus center (see here for current locations).

Dr. Joffe’s son, Craig Joffe, became CEO in 2015.

Now this situation.

In January 2023, the FTC filed an official complaint against and issued an order to LASIKPlus to pay up in a settlement for using “deceptive bait-and-switch advertising to trick consumers into believing they could have their vision corrected for less than $300.”

Exactly what did these promos advertise?

Advertised between 2015 and 2020, the promo—which offered vision correction procedures for as low as $250—was run by the LCA’s LASIKPlus centers on television, radio, in print and shopping flyers, as well as digitally.

Further, the company’s Joffe MediCenters also ran similar promos that offered a price as low as $295.

See here for a visual of a promo. And click here for excerpts of the promo scripts (starting on page 3).

So how much were the majority of consumers quoted for?

The FTC reported that consumers with vision that was “less than near-normal vision” were usually quoted anywhere from $1,800 to $2,295 per eye—a stark difference from the promo.

Some advertisements distributed across the country “also neglected to tell consumers up-front that the promotional price was per-eye only.”

And how many actually qualified for the promo?

This advertising turned out to only apply to 6.5% of consumers who sought consultation for the promotional price for both eyes, the agency noted.

Further, only 1.3% of consumers ended up receiving LASIK at the promotional price.

And the issue at hand?

Aside from the actual consumer qualification percentage (see above), the FTC noted:

  • Consumers did not learn the actual price of the LASIK surgery until they had spent considerable time and effort undergoing lengthy full-dilation eye exams and in-person consultations;
  • LCA’s websites failed to consistently disclose eligibility restrictions, or did so only in fine print at the bottom of the page; and
  • LCA’s call center operators also often refused to reveal the eligibility requirements to consumers.

Gotcha. So what did this settlement include?

In addition to LCA paying $1.25 million, the company was blocked from its “deceptive conduct alleged in the complaint” and required to make any future LASIK advertising of discounts include the following “clear and conspicuous” disclosures:

  • Whether the price is per eye
  • The price most consumers pay per eye
  • Any requirements or qualifications needed to receive the discount / offered price

Now back to this latest update; how many consumers are being notified?

The FTC is sending claim forms to 159,711 consumers who may be eligible for payment from that $1.25 million payment.

These notifications will be sent either via email or postal mail.

What would qualify them for eligibility?

If they visited a LASIKPlus or Joffe MediCenter facility for a LASIK consultation but chose not to undergo surgery after learning of the actual price.

And how much will the payment be for?

It’ll depend on a few factors, the FTC stated, including how many consumers end up filing a claim.

And lastly … how do I (or my patients) file a claim?

Click here.

Note: Deadline is May 20, 2024.

*Disclaimer: The information provided in this article does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, materials available herein are for general information purposes only.

*Featured image property of LCA Vision Inc. (LASIKPlus).