Complying with the Eyeglass Rule

As an eye doctor, you must give patients a copy of their eyeglass prescriptions after completion of an eye exam. These Q&As can help you learn more about your responsibilities.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Eyeglass Rule. It requires eye doctors — ophthalmologists and optometrists — to give patients a copy of their prescription – whether they ask for it or not.  It’s the law.

Here are questions and answers to help you comply with the Eyeglass Rule.

What should a prescription include?

The Rule defines a prescription as “the written specifications for lenses for eyeglasses which are derived from an eye examination, including all of the information specified by state law, if any, necessary to obtain lenses for eyeglasses.”

Many states require the prescription to include:

  • The patient’s name;
  • The date of the patient’s exam and/or when the prescription was issued;
  • When the prescription expires; and
  • Your name, contact information, and signature.

You also may want to include the patient’s pupillary distance. In some states, you are required to include the pupillary distance. If your patient wants to buy glasses online, they will need that measurement. Also, the prescription should be legible and complete.

When do I need to provide the prescription?

You are required to provide a patient with a copy of the prescription immediately after the eye examination is completed. 

Can I charge a fee for the prescription?

No. You can’t require patients to pay an extra fee, or buy eyeglasses or contact lenses in exchange for the prescription. You also can’t require a patient to make a purchase from you in order to get an eye exam.

You can charge for the eye exam. However, the only way you can require a patient to pay for the eye exam or evaluation before giving them a copy of their prescription is if you require immediate payment from all eye exam patients.

You may charge an additional fee for verifying eyeglasses dispensed by another seller, but the fee may only be charged when the verification is performed.

Can I ask a patient to waive or disclaim liability?

No. You cannot provide a notice waiving or disclaiming liability, or require the patient to sign a waiver or release, as a condition of releasing the prescription to the patient.

Are there any exceptions to the Rule?

The Eyeglass Rule does not apply to ophthalmologists or optometrists employed by any Federal, State or local government entity.

Where can I report Rule violations?

If you suspect violations of the Eyeglass Rule or the Contact Lens Rule, you can report that online at ftc.gov/complaint. FTC attorneys and investigators – and hundreds of other law enforcement agencies – use complaints to bring cases against companies and people that violate the law.

Your Opportunity to Comment

The National Small Business Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards collect comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities. Each year, the Ombudsman evaluates the conduct of these activities and rates each agency’s responsiveness to small businesses. Small businesses can comment to the Ombudsman without fear of reprisal. To comment, call toll-free 1-888-REGFAIR (1-888-734-3247) or go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.