A prescription for complying with the Eyeglass Rule

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When patients leave the office after an appointment with their eyecare professional, they should have certain things in hand: their coat, their phone – and a copy of their eyeglass prescription. The FTC’s Ophthalmic Practice Rules – otherwise known as the Eyeglass Rule – require prescribers to provide patients a copy of their prescription immediately after an examination to determine the refraction of a patient’s eyes, even if the patient doesn’t ask for it and even if the prescription hasn’t changed. FTC staff just sent letters to practitioners reminding them of that long-standing requirement.

The purpose of the Rule is to allow consumers to comparison shop when buying prescription eyewear. The FTC recently received reports that some offices had failed to provide a consumer with their eyeglass prescription at the end of an eye exam. FTC staff sent those offices letters reminding them of their obligations under the Eyeglass Rule.

The letters remind recipients of some other key provisions:

  • Prescribers can’t require patients to buy eyeglasses from them as a condition of performing an eye exam.
  • Prescribers can’t require that patients buy eyeglasses as a condition of providing a copy of the prescription.
  • Prescribers can’t place a liability waiver on the prescription. They also can’t require patients to sign a waiver or require them to pay additional fees in exchange for a copy of the prescription.

Prescribers may require patients to pay for their eye exam before giving the patient a copy of the prescription, but only if they also require immediate payment from patients whose exams reveal no need for glasses, contacts, or other ophthalmic goods.

In some of the letters, FTC staff raised concerns about reports that the prescribers also may have violated the Contact Lens Rule. That Rule includes a similar provision specifying that upon completion of a contact lens fitting, “[w]hether or not requested by the patient,” the prescriber “shall provide to the patient a copy of the contact lens prescription.” Violations of either the Eyeglass Rule or Contact Lens Rule could result in financial penalties.

Focusing on the requirements of the Rules? Read Complying with the Eyeglass Rule for more information. Also, the FTC has revised two publications – The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers and FAQs: Complying with the Contact Lens Rule – to reflect recent revisions to that Rule.

The FTC has tips for consumers who wear glasses or contacts to help explain their rights under the law.
 

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