By Alexander Hendrie –
It is a basic principle of free markets that consumers are able to make decisions without government control over prices and purchasing choices.
From time to time, moneyed special interests try to erode this freedom based on vague “safety concerns.” Invariably, the solution they call for is government interference in the marketplace because of a pressing need to protect consumers. In actuality, the motivation behind these campaigns is to artificially force consumers into actions that benefit some industries over others.
This is precisely what is happening over contact lens purchasing choice with the misleadingly named “Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act,” legislation that erodes carefully crafted laws that ensure consumers can buy contact lenses from wherever they choose. Supporters claim that the legislation targets deceptive sales of contact lenses, yet it actually squeezes consumers to make it difficult, even impossible to purchase lenses from any non-optometrist third party.
At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing existing law governing contact lens competition, and lawmakers have buried language in the otherwise conservative Financial Services Appropriations bill that undermines contact lens consumer choice. Regulators should not follow the lead of lawmakers behind this deceptive legislative push and should instead ensure competition and consumer choice is preserved and protected.
Optometrists are unique in that they are one of the few medical professions that are allowed to both prescribe and then sell their product. While there should be no restriction on professionals selling the eye vision they prescribe, this opens the door to a conflict of interest where patients are restricted or denied the choice to purchase products because of bad advice or outright deception.
While many optometrists have and do act ethically, this is far from a hypothetical concern. There have been several well documented cases of bad actors conspiring to limit consumer choice and access to contact lenses for personal enrichment.