Friday, January 27, 2017
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
Dear FTC Commissioners,
Below please find a statement from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) request for comments on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Contact Lens Rule (16 CFR Part 315, Project No. R511995).
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest volunteer-based civil rights organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit www.lulac.org.
LULAC offers a strong statement of support for the FTC’s proposed amendments to their Contact Lens Rule, which implements the landmark Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003 (FCLCA) and applauds the commission for taking important steps to ensure consumers are informed of their rights as contact lens consumers and increasing access and choice in the marketplace.
The FTC’s proposed amendments to the Contact Lens Rule are an important victory for Latino working families who rely on the convenience, choice and savings that comes from being able to shop for contact lenses when and where they want. This access to choice and savings is especially important to LULAC as Latinos are the fastest growing demographic of contact lens users but our community simply does not know their rights as consumers, especially their right to a copy of their contact lens prescription, which is necessary to purchase contact lenses from any vendor.
Unlike the rest of the world, where you do not need a prescription to buy contact lenses, the system in the US leads many consumers to vendors who issue prescriptions and who are allowed to sell contact lenses at the same time. Consumers who do not know their rights are being “trapped in the exam chair,” unaware that they can buy lenses elsewhere for lower prices.
This flawed system also creates inequities for working families, who are forced to take time off from work to see their eye doctor for fittings, new lenses and/or replacement lenses because they believe the eye doctor’s office is the only place to buy contact lenses. Over the past decade since the Contact Lens Rule and Contact Lens Consumer Act has gone into place, a vibrant and healthy marketplace has grown for the sale of contact lenses. Consumers can buy contact lenses online, at the drugstore, or where they do their weekly shopping – in businesses such as Costco. We are not opposed to Hispanic consumers buying their contact lenses from their eye doctors but they should have a choice to search for the most affordable option and be made aware of that choice.
It is very clear reading the FTC’s comments from their rule review that contact lens consumers in America do not know their rights under the law and sadly are not receiving their prescriptions. A troubling number of eye doctors are refusing to give consumers copies of the consumer’s own prescription even when asked for the prescription directly, which violates the law.
LULAC applauds the addition of a requirement for optometrists to obtain a signed acknowledgement after providing a prescription to a consumer, and to keep that acknowledgement on file for three years. This new procedure would give the FTC a means to track those who are failing to follow the prescription release requirement under FCLCA and to take action on behalf of consumers’ rights when warranted.
The FTC also carefully analyzed and debunked many of the false allegations made by the American Optometrist Association and contact lens manufacturers who claim that eye health is jeopardized when consumers buy lenses anywhere other than the doctor’s office. The FTC found no empirical evidence to support their claims. In fact, LULAC believes that giving consumers choice in where to buy new contact lenses could improve their eye health. Working families would benefit greatly from having the choice of purchasing contact lenses at potential lower prices. Currently many are forced to stretch their limited supply of contacts beyond their recommended use, as they are unable to afford timely replacements.
Protecting consumers’ health, safety and freedom of choice in the marketplace is the central mission of the Federal Trade Commission and they fulfilled their mission admirably with this review of the Contact Lens Rule. With the addition of these new amendments proposed in 16 CFR Part 315, Project No. R511995, millions more Americans will be made aware of their rights as contact lens consumers and be guaranteed the means to shop around and get the best deal for their families.
National Executive Director