Doctor's Eyecare Center, Inc., of Dallas, Texas, and its president, have agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they failed to provide many patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription after completing an eye examination and that they unlawfully included on their prescription forms a waiver of liability as to accuracy. These practices violate the FTC's Prescription Release Rule. In addition to paying the civil penalty, the settlement would prohibit the defendants from further violating the Rule.
This is the first case alleging violation of the FTC's Prescription Release Rule. "The purpose of the rule is to provide consumers with a choice of eyeglass providers and an opportunity to shop around for competitive prices," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Without a copy of their prescription, consumers are forced to purchase their eyeglasses from the examining ophthalmologist or optometrist."
The Prescription Release Rule, originally promulgated in June 1978, requires an ophthalmologist or optometrist to give a copy of the patient's eyeglass prescription to the patient immediately after the eye exam is completed. To fully protect consumers, the Rule requires that eyeglass prescriptions be automatically released rather than given out only after a request from the patient. Armed with a copy of their prescription, a consumer can go to any eyeglass provider, including opticians, to purchase their eyeglasses.
Doctor's Eyecare Center offers eye exams and sells eyeglass frames and lenses in the North Texas area. Daniel B. Shropshire, president of the Center, is a licensed optometrist.
According to the FTC complaint detailing the allegations, after completing eye examinations, the defendants failed to provide many patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescriptions, unless a patient specifically requested it. When they did provide a copy of the prescription, the FTC alleged, the prescription form they used contained a waiver notice that implied that the examining doctor was not liable for the accuracy of the prescription and that the dispensing optician assumes the responsibility for lens power adjustments and remakes due to inaccuracies in the prescription. Such a disclaimer also violates the Rule.
The proposed consent decree settling these charges, subject to court approval, would require the defendants to pay the $10,000 civil penalty within 10 days and would permanently bar the defendants from future violations of the Prescription Release Rule. In addition, the order would require the defendants to give a copy of the consent decree, the Rule and its Statement of Basis and Purpose to each of its employees and get back from them a signed statement acknowledging receipt of the above documents.
The proposed settlement also contains various reporting provisions designed to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.
The Commission vote to authorize filing of the complaint and proposed consent decree was 5-0. They were filed on May 2, 1996, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in Dallas, by the Department of Justice at the request of the FTC.
NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and consent decree are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710 FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 924-3248)
(Civil Action No. 3-96 CV 1224-D)