Public Comments for Events Organized by the FTC's Economic Liberty Task Force #00033

Submission Number:
Joseph B. Neville
National Association of Optometrists and Opticians
Initiative Name:
Public Comments for Events Organized by the FTC's Economic Liberty Task Force
On behalf of the National Association of Optometrists and Opticians (the "NAOO"), we offer the following comments and questions. NAOO is a national organization representing the retail optical industry and eye care providers. Our members offer consumers the convenience of optical dispensaries (staffed with opticians) that are co-located with eye care services from eye care providers (typically optometrists) who prescribe corrective eyewear and perform eye health examinations. Most NAOO members also offer e-commerce optical retailing to customers. NAOO members collectively represent nearly 9000 co-located eye care offices and optical dispensaries serving millions of patients and eyewear customers each year. NAOO members are dedicated to the principle that consumers are best served when optometrists and opticians are able to be co-located and serve consumers jointly. The form of business models used by NAOO members to affiliate with optometrists may include: - Subleases or licensed departments to independent contractor optometrists by the optical dispenser, - Franchising to optometrists and opticians who offer co-located eye care and eyewear sales, - Operation of a vision care service plan, and - Employment of the optometrist by the optical dispenser in the states where corporate practice of optometry regulations permit such a model. These forms of practice offer an alternative to the traditional practice modalities where either there is no on-site eye care available to an optician's customers, or where the eye care patient is tied or at least strongly induced through a variety of practices to become a customer of the dispensary owned and operated by an optometrist who is also the prescriber. NAOO is consumer oriented, and dedicated to the proposition that the free market, in the tradition of the American business system, best meets the consumer's vision care needs. The NAOO believes that significant reform of professional licensing in the US is appropriate and needed today, and recommends that one of the first professions the FTC should review is opticianry. Reform of optician licensing laws should include changes in existing state laws and rules to enhance the mobility of certified and experienced opticians between the states that license opticians and from non-licensed states into a licensed state. The twenty-one states that currently license opticians have a patchwork of requirements and regulations that are unrelated to protecting the public ; these state laws offer a clear object lesson demonstrating the FTC staff observations. Our detailed comments are attached.