FTC amends Contact Lens Rule, empowers consumers

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the final amendments to the Contact Lens Rule to empower consumers and reduce illegal prescription alterations.

The approval of the Final Rule comes after an extensive review of thousands of public comments and documents received by the FTC between 2015 and 2019.

According to the FTC, the Final Rule requires that after contact lens fitting, eye doctor/prescribers must automatically provide patients with a complete copy of their prescription and verify or provide prescriptions to third-party sellers.

It also requires eye doctors/prescribers to request their patients sign a prescriber-retained copy of the prescription and sales receipt for examination. Thus, confirming that the patients received a copy of their prescriptions.

Furthermore, the Final Rule requires eye doctors/prescribers to provide patients with a digital copy of the prescription, and retain evidence that it was sent, received, or made accessible, downloadable, and printable.

Moreover, the Final Rule requires eye doctors/prescribers to maintain evidence of their compliance with the confirmation of prescription release requirements for three years. If a patient refuses to sign a confirmation, they must write a note and save as record of their compliance with the requirement.

Rule allows consumers to “comparison shop”

In a statement, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith said, “Eye doctors are required by law to provide every patient with a copy of his or her contact lens prescription, allowing patients to comparison shop for lenses. This rule change will help to ensure that eye doctors fulfill their obligations, and will facilitate FTC enforcement of these important requirements.”

The Final Rule also includes changes to reduce illegal prescription alterations by contact lens sellers. It requires sellers to provide a way in which consumers can prominently present their prescriptions. The seller must clearly disclose that method to consumers before requesting the prescriber’s contact information to verify the prescription.

FTC calls on Congress to fix Contact Lens Consumers Act

FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter noted that the Contact Lens Rule implements the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003. She also stated that the Final Rule was updated with “reasonable compromises that further the Act’s purpose of empowering consumers when shopping for lenses.”

In addition, Commissioner Slaughter said an “anticompetitive dynamic” exists in the U.S. contact lens market. She encouraged Congress to “consider a narrow legislative fix to the current Act” to “further empower consumers and promote competition among contact lens sellers.”

“My hope is that policymakers do not see this Final Notice of Rulemaking as the final step in the long journey to improve the contact-lens market for American consumers. We have more work to do,” wrote Commissioner Slaughter in a released statement.