To most people, Plano is a pleasant city north of Dallas. But if you have clients in the optical industry — or hang out in goth circles on the weekend — "plano" refers to a contact lens worn for cosmetic effect, not vision correction. Even if you just wear contacts yourself, you should know about the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, the FTC's Contact Lens Rule, and a recent FTC law enforcement action against Gothic Lens, an online seller of theatrical and Halloween-themed cosmetic contacts.
The Contact Lens Rule requires prescribers to give patients a copy of their contact lens prescription at the end of a fitting, even if they don't ask for it. That means they can comparison shop at local stores and online to find the best deal. The Rule makes it clear that retailers may sell contacts only with a valid prescription. If a patient doesn't provide the prescription on paper or via fax, email, etc., the Rule outlines the procedures retailers have to follow to verify the prescription before selling the lenses.
Under the law, both corrective lenses and cosmetic contacts require a valid prescription. So what's the big deal if the lenses are just for effect? It may be a cliché, but in this case it's true: It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. The improper use of contacts — even ones bought to see what it's like to have green eyes for a night or creepy irises on Halloween — can cause corneal ulcers, abrasions, vision impairment, and blindness.
That’s why the FTC took action when Gothic Lens was allegedly selling cosmetic contacts without getting a prescription or verifying the prescription with the prescriber. According to the complaint, the company also failed to meet the record-keeping requirements of the Contact Lens Rule. In addition to injunctive provisions, the settlement imposed a $50,000 civil penalty. The owner of the company will sell her 2008 BMW in partial satisfaction of the judgment, and the rest will be suspended because of her inability to pay.
Looking for information about complying with the law? Read The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers and Complying with the Contact Lens Rule. Want to find out more about your rights as a consumer — or pass the word on to a goth teen that those crazy red contacts aren’t worth the risk? Check out Avoiding an Eyesore: What to Know Before You Buy Cosmetic Contacts and The Eyes Have It: Get Your Prescription.