A company and its owner selling contact lenses directly to consumers via three Web sites are settling Federal Trade Commission charges they violated federal law by failing to verify consumers’ prescriptions as required by the Commission’s Contact Lens Rule. They will pay $40,000 in civil penalties and will be prohibited from violating the Rule in the future. This is the FTC’s first enforcement action under the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003 and the Contact Lens Rule, which the Commission issued in 2004.
The laws require that prescribers provide consumers with a copy of their prescription after they are fitted for contact lenses and that sellers either obtain a copy of the prescription or directly verify it with the prescriber before selling contact lenses to consumers. The laws are designed to make the market for contact lenses more competitive by allowing consumers to obtain their prescriptions and comparison shop for lenses. The laws also are designed to protect consumers’ ocular health by prohibiting the sale of contact lenses without a valid prescription.
The defendants, Walsh Optical, Inc., and its owner Kevin Walsh, run three Web sites that sell contact lenses: www.lensworld.com, www.contactmania.com, and www.contactlensworld.com. The FTC’s complaint alleged that the defendants often sold contact lenses to consumers without first obtaining their prescription or verifying the prescription with the prescriber. In addition to the $40,000 civil penalty, the settlement also contains provisions that allow the FTC to monitor compliance.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to refer the complaint and stipulated consent decree and order to the Department of Justice for filing was 5-0. The complaint and proposed order were filed today at the FTC’s request by the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law.
NOTE: This stipulated consent decree and order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and stipulated final order are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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