In response to reports that some eye doctors may be violating the Contact Lens Rule, the FTC recently sent cease-and-desist letters to 24 prescribers’ offices reminding them of their legal obligations.
The FTC’s Contact Lens Rule ensures that patients receive a copy of their contact lens prescription when they complete a contact lens fitting with their eyecare professional. The Rule requires prescribers to give patients a copy of their prescription after completing a fitting even if the patient doesn’t ask for it and even if the prescription hasn’t changed.
The purpose of the Rule — which is governed by the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act — is to allow people to comparison shop when buying prescription contact lenses. The Rule has been in place since 2004, and was amended in 2020, but the FTC continues to get reports about some eyecare professionals who are not following the law. The letters also remind prescribers that, under the Rule:
- they can’t charge for prescriptions and can’t require patients to buy contact lenses or sign waivers as a condition of providing a copy of the prescription;
- they may require patients to pay for their eye exam and fitting before giving the patient a copy of the prescription, but only if the prescriber also requires immediate payment from patients whose exams reveal no need for contacts. Proof of insurance coverage for service is deemed to be payment;
- when they prescribe private label lenses, they must include the name of manufacturer, trade name of private label brand, and, if applicable, trade name of equivalent brand name. This requirement ensures that consumers have the information they need to comparison shop for the prescribed contact lens or one “identical” to the prescribed lens; and
- if they have a direct or indirect financial interest in the sale of contact lenses, they must ask their patients to sign an acknowledgement confirming they received their prescription.
The letters to certain prescribers include warnings about the following obligations when they receive requests from third-party sellers:
- when a prescriber responds to a third-party seller’s request for prescription verification, they must not provide a general denial. If the prescription is inaccurate, expired or otherwise invalid, the prescriber must specify the basis for the inaccuracy or invalidity of the prescription and, if it is inaccurate, the prescriber must correct it; and
- when a prescriber receives a request for a copy of a prescription from a third-party seller, the prescriber must either provide the prescription or indicate that it is no longer current or valid within forty business hours of receipt of the request.
In some of the letters, FTC staff raised concerns about reports that the prescribers also may have violated the Eyeglass Rule. That Rule requires prescribers to provide eyeglass prescription at the end of refractive eye exams, and prohibits prescribers from charging for the prescription or making patients buy eyeglasses.
The letters inform prescribers that they should review the Rules and must comply with their requirements, and advise that failure to comply could result in legal action and financial penalties of $50,120 per violation.
Focusing on the requirements of the Rules? Read The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers, FAQs: Complying with the Contact Lens Rule, and Complying with the Eyeglass Rule for more information. The FTC also has advice for people who wear contacts or glasses to help explain their rights under the law.
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To the ftc.gov admin, Your posts are always well-received by the community.
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