By Dean Chambers – Eye doctors have had a history of charging higher prices to consumers for eye care products, including contact lenses.
This has led to independent vendors offering consumers lower prices for the same exact products.
In turn, eye care practitioners are refusing to grant patients their prescriptions after an eye examination, forcing them to purchase contact lenses at the eye doctor’s office.
Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have enacted and implemented strong protections of consumer rights to purchase contact lenses from other sellers.
Eye doctors, however, have continued to thwart consumer protection laws on contact lens purchasing, leading to yet further protections announced by the FTC last year.
The FTC had previously issued the Contact Lens Rule of July 2004 that, in part, required eye care practitioners to provide patients their prescriptions after they pay for an eye exam, regardless of whether they bought contact lenses at the eye doctor’s office.
At a time when eye care practitioners have been blatantly violating consumer rights to obtain their prescriptions to purchase the same contact lens products at lower prices, the industry and its representatives have lobbied Congress to enact legislation further limiting customer choices.
Called the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act of 2016, the bill does nothing the title suggests. It merely saddles the outside vendors with regulations designed to cause customers to purchase from the eye doctor’s office at higher prices instead.
The legislation would do nothing to protect consumer health, which is no less safe when contact lenses are bought from independent vendors. It simply is a crony protection measure for the contact lens manufacturers and the eye doctors that sell them at higher prices to patients.
Last December, the FTC announced new proposed rules on contact lens purchases intended to protect consumers. The rules are intended to enforce consumer rights protected under the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act passed by Congress in 2004. The Automatic Prescription Release rule requires eye doctors to provide patients their prescriptions so they are able them to shop for better deals on eye care products.