Federal Trade Commission
Office of the Secretary
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Room CC-5610 (Annex C)
Washington, DC 20580
RE: Contact Lens Rule, 16 CFR Part 315, Project No. R511995
Jan. 30, 2017
Dear FTC Commissioners and Staff,
Consumer Action has been a strong voice for contact lens consumers for the past decade, working in support of the Federal Contact Lens Consumer Act of 2004 and against attempts over the past decade on the federal and state level to roll back key consumer protections of the law. Consumer Action strongly supports the rights of consumers to choose where they want to purchase their prescription contact lenses and their right to a copy of their own prescription.These rights are especially critical when one considers that unlike any other health profession, optometrists are allowed issue contact lens prescriptions to patients and sell them contact lenses at the same time. You can’t buy contact lenses in the United States
without a prescription and only prescribers can pick which brand you can buy.
People who can write prescriptions have a tremendous amount of power and authority over contact lens patients. According to new Consumer Action polling, 72% of contact lens consumers surveyed purchase contact lenses from their eye doctor.This puts contact lens consumers, especially new patients, at a severe disadvantage when it comes making informed consumer choices, especially if those patients are
unaware that the they have the right to take a copy of their prescription and go elsewhere to buy their lenses—like a big box store, a drugstore or to an online contact lens company.Recently consumer polling commissioned by Consumer Action as part of the ORC International Telephone CARAVAN® survey conducted January 12-15 & 19-22, 2017 shows very clearly that contact lens consumers are unaware of their right to their own prescription.
- In a national sample of 685 contact lens consumers, 60% of all respondents were unaware that under federal law, a doctor or exam provider is required to automatically provide their patient with a copy of their prescription after they get their contact lens exam.
- More Hispanics and African Americans do not know their rights under FCLCA versus white Americans. 65% of Hispanics surveyed were unaware of their rights, 63% of blacks and 58% of whites.
- Close to one-third of respondents (31%) were not given a copy of their prescription after getting their contact lens exams at the eye doctors.
- 44% of Hispanics surveyed were not given copies of their prescription after their exams and had to ask their eye doctors to give them a copy of their prescriptions.
- 72% of contact lens consumers surveyed purchase contact lenses at their eye doctors’ offices. 24% of surveyed consumers purchase lenses from online sites, 12% buy lenses from shopping clubs like Costco and 8% surveyed buy lenses at drug stores.* (Consumers were asked which outlets they have bought lenses at so one consumer could answer yes to all categories.)
It is deeply troubling that more than 10 years after President Bush signed the FCLCA into law that 30% of contact lens consumers Consumer Action surveyed are not being given copies of their contact lens prescriptions after their eye exams. Consumer Action, a national leader on diversity and consumer literacy, also is very concerned that diverse consumers appear to be having more trouble getting their prescriptions than white consumers.
There is clearly a need for more consumer education and more education for doctors, which is why Consumer Action is so grateful to the FTC for its careful and thoughtful review of the Contact Lens Rule and the much-needed changes you have proposed to that rule.
Requiring optometrists to obtain a signed acknowledgement after providing a prescription to a consumer, and to keep that acknowledgement on hand for three years will help educate consumers, especially first time patients and wearers, of their right to take their prescription with them and shop around for the best price.This new written acknowledgment process will also help the FTC beef up enforcement of the law and crack down on eye doctors who are violating the rights of their patients.
Consumer Action also commends the FTC for its rigorous data-driven approach to this rulemaking. Opponents of the FCLCA and increased contact lens consumer rights offered numerous proposals during the rulemaking process that would have gutted the provisions of the FCLCA and made it far more difficult for consumers to purchase lenses from other retailers.
These proposals (which we heartily object to) included consumer-unfriendly ideas such allowing optometrists to select the method of communication retailers must use in contacting prescribers; lengthening the eight-business-hour period for prescription verification; restricting automated verification systems; adding requirements for live agents to take calls from prescribers, and adopting quantity limits on lens orders.In rejecting these proposals, the FTC appropriately emphasized the importance of protecting consumer rights as Congress intended when it passed the FCLCA in 2003. The FTC also accurately noted that the groups making these proposals failed to provide as empirical evidence or data to support their claims, and instead provided only hypothetical examples and anecdotal stories. That is why we offer our survey data to the FTC to show ongoing issues with violations of the rule.Consumers deserve the chance to get the best, most convenient deal possible when it comes to buying contact lenses. They should not be pressured to purchase during the exam process and they should leave their eye doctor’s office with a copy of their prescription in hand allowing them to comparison shop for the best price on the lenses they need. The polling shows there is much education to be done but this new FTC rule will go a long way in ensuring every consumer is protected under the law.
Director of National Priorities
About Consumer Action
Consumer Action empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers nationwide to financially prosper through education and advocacy. By participating in legislative, regulatory and policy initiatives, Consumer Action ensures that underrepresented consumers have a voice in front of lawmakers and the national media. Each year, Consumer Action takes positions on dozens of bills at the state and national levels and submits comments and testimony on a host of consumer protection issues.
About the TELEPHONE CARAVAN® Methodology
The following information describes the methodology used for the ORC International Telephone CARAVAN® survey conducted January 12-15 & 19-22, 2017. The study was conducted using two probability samples: randomly selected landline telephone numbers and randomly selected mobile (cell) telephone numbers. The combined sample consists of 2,018 adults (18 years old and older) living in the continental United States. Of the 2,018 interviews, 1,017 were from the landline sample and 1,001 from the cell phone sample. The margin of error for the sample of 2,018 is +/-2.18% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins. Surveys are collected by trained and supervised US based interviewers using ORC International’s computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) system. Final data is adjusted to consider the two sample frames and then weighted by age, gender, region, race/ethnicity and education to be proportionally representative of the US adult population.
As a founding member of the Code of Standards of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and a member of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR), we adhere to a rigorous Code of Standards and Ethics for Survey Research. As required by CASRO, we will maintain the anonymity of our respondents. No information will be released that in any way will reveal the identity of a respondent. Our authorization is required for any publication of the research findings or their implications.
Telephone CARAVAN® uses a dual frame sampling design. This means that the sample is drawn from two independent sample frames—one for landlines and one for cell phones.
ORC International’s Random Digit Dial (RDD) telephone sample is generated using a list-assisted methodology. That is, the updated white page listings that are used to identify telephone number banks (the first 8 digits of the phone number) with a listed phone number in them. The standard that we use is 2+, meaning that a bank needs to have 2 or more listed households to be considered working. We use the Genesys Sampling in-house system to generate list-assisted Random Digit Dialing sample.