The Federal Trade Commission staff today took action to increase the effectiveness of and compliance with the Contact Lens and Eyeglass Rules. In 2003, Congress enacted the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, which imposed new prescription release and verification requirements on prescribers and sellers of contact lenses. In July 2004, the Commission issued the Contact Lens Rule to implement the Act. The Commission's Eyeglass Rule has been in effect since 1978. To help consumers and businesses, the FTC staff has taken three steps relating to the Contact Lens and Eyeglass Rules:
Issued Contact Lens Rule Warning Letters: The staff sent warning letters to more than 25 contact lens prescribers and sellers. The letters to prescribers state that the Commission has received complaints that the prescribers may have violated the Rule by failing to release contact lens prescriptions or by requiring a patient to purchase contact lenses as a condition of releasing the prescription. The letters to sellers state that complaints indicate that the sellers may have violated the Rule by selling contact lenses to consumers after their prescriber indicated, within eight business hours, that the underlying prescription was expired. The letters urged the prescribers and sellers to review the Rule and revise their practices as necessary to ensure they are complying with its requirements.
Released Consumer Education Materials: To educate consumers who wear contact lenses or eyeglasses about their rights under federal law, the FTC staff has issued "The Eyes Have It - Get Your Prescription." Among other things, this alert informs consumers that their eye care provider must provide them with a copy of their contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions, whether or not the consumer asks for them. Contact lens prescriptions must be provided when a contact lens fitting is complete, and eyeglass prescriptions must be provided at the end of an eye exam. Consumers can use their prescriptions to purchase contact lenses or eyeglasses from sellers other than their prescriber, which promotes comparison shopping by consumers.
Released Business Education Materials: To educate contact lens prescribers and sellers about their obligations under the Contact Lens Rule, the FTC staff has issued "The Contact Lens Rule: a Guide for Prescribers and Sellers." The FTC staff also has issued Frequently Asked Questions about the Rule, along with answers to those questions. The business education materials and the FAQs explain the obligation of prescribers and sellers under the Rule.
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release 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, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.