Magazine article Regulation

Contact Lens Prescription Release

Magazine article Regulation

Contact Lens Prescription Release

Article excerpt

STATUS: FTC comment period closes April 5.

The Federal Trade Commission proposes to require that optometrists and ophthalmologists must give contact lens prescriptions to consumers once the process of fitting lenses has concluded, instead of being able to withhold that information. Congress required this new regulation (similar to existing FTC regulations of eyeglass prescriptions) in the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, signed by the president last December 6. The new rule would also prohibit eye doctors from requiring consumers to purchase contact lenses from them as a condition of performing the eye exam, and it would prevent them from charging separately for providing a copy of" the prescription. Selling lenses without a prescription would now be a clear violation of federal law.

Most interesting is a requirement that eye doctors must provide and/or verify the prescription when a consumer seeks to purchase replacement contact lenses from anyone else, be it a competing doctor, a discount retailer, or an Internet-based lens merchant. Indeed, the principal political impetus for the legislation was mail-order and Internet lens sellers, along with their customers, who expressed frustration that some eye doctors would not provide or verify prescriptions.

Optometrists often sell a lot of contact lenses, so they have natural incentives to withhold the prescription information. But because eye doctors compete with each other, they also have incentives to release prescriptions if that is important to consumers. …

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