WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice this week announced that 70,000 individuals have signed a petition urging Congress to reject recently proposed legislation that would reduce choice and increase costs for America’s contact lens wearers. The 70,000 signatures were collected online in just one week following the petition’s launch.
“The response to this petition has been dramatic and demonstrates that the American people want to maintain their right to purchase contact lenses from the retailer they choose,” said Cary Samourkachian, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Lens.com. “There is no legitimate health or other justification for rolling back the critical consumer protections enacted in 2003 that give consumers the ease and convenience of buying lenses where they want. The legislation being pushed by the American Optometric Association (AOA) is simply another attempt by the trade group to limit the ability of patients to purchase their lenses from alternative retailers so that optometrists can capture those sales and increase their own profits.”
Since the Fairness for Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) was enacted in 2003, consumers have had the ability to purchase contact lenses from alternative retailers, whether online, in stores or over-the-phone. New legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) earlier this month, the misleadingly-named Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (CLCHPA) (S.2777), would reverse those hard-fought gains and limit the ability of consumers to access affordable lenses.
Congress approved the FCLCA in 2003 to address anti-competitive practices that had emerged in the contact lens market. The FCLCA requires optometrists, who make as much as 70 percent of their revenue from selling glasses and contact lenses, to provide their patients with a copy of their prescription without having to ask. Patients then have the option of using that prescription to purchase their contact lenses from their retailer of choice.
The CLCHPA would threaten this system by adding new barriers to the prescription verification process. These new verification procedures would limit the ability of consumers to purchase their contact lenses from alternative retailers, which would reduce choice, increase consumer costs, and potentially jeopardize eye health.
In addition to the strong opposition to the CLCHPA expressed by the petition signers, there is widespread and growing opposition to the legislation by consumer interest groups and good government advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum.
“Consumers are concerned about recently introduced legislation that would reduce choice and increase costs for individuals who wear contact lenses,” said Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “The Hispanic community is among the many groups of individuals who have higher rates of visual impairment and rely on the convenience and cost savings of purchasing contact lenses from their retailer of choice. This legislation threatens consumer’s rights by limiting their access to the marketplace and their ability to choose.”
“Consumers and taxpayers have a great deal at stake in protecting choice for contact lens purchases,” said Pete Sepp, President of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). “If Congress turns back the clock on access to competitive vision care products and services with ill-advised legislation, taxpayer-funded insurance programs will incur heavier costs. Meanwhile, the door would be open for future legislative schemes against other pro-consumer innovations, ranging from prescriptions by mail to pet medications. NTU’s thousands of members nationwide are proud to stand with so many other concerned Americans in this grassroots coalition for consumer and taxpayer freedom.”
For more than a decade, alternative contact lens sellers have been closely monitored by the Federal Trade Commission without any evidence of adverse consumer health effects attributed to the purchase of contact lenses from these retailers. In fact, consumers who purchase their lenses from non-prescribers actually report higher levels of compliance with manufacturers’ suggested wear guidelines, fewer instances of infections, and closer adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for healthy contact lens wear. Studies show that those same consumers see their eye care provider at the same rate as those who purchase their contacts through their eye care provider. Consumers are more likely to wear clean, fresh lenses when they are convenient to purchase and affordable.
The petitions will be delivered to Congressional leaders, including the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as to Senator Cassidy and other members.
About the Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice
The Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice serves as a voice for 41 million American contact lens consumers by advocating for continued consumer choice in the contact lens market. The Coalition opposes legislative and regulatory proposals at the federal and state levels that would limit the ability of consumers to purchase contact lenses from the retailer of their choice, whether online, in stores or over-the-phone.
More information about the coalition can be found at KeepContactLensChoice.org.