Since the Fairness to 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.
The Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice is focused on maintaining the consumer protections in the FCLCA that are intended to ensure consumers can purchase contact lenses from the retailer they choose. There are health benefits from maintaining a competitive contact lens market, as consumers are more likely to wear clean, fresh lenses when they are conveniently purchased and affordable.
Unfortunately, the rights of consumers to purchase lenses from their retailer of choice is under threat. Legislation proposed by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in April 2016 would reverse the hard-fought gains in the FCLCA and limit the ability of consumers to conveniently access affordable lenses. The misleadingly-named Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (CLCHPA) (S.2777), as well as its companion bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6157), which are being pushed by the American Optometric Association, the trade association for optometrists, contact lens manufacturers, and their joint advocacy group, the Coalition for Patient Vision Care Safety, would rewrite the FCLCA to undermine the competitive contact lens marketplace to increase profits for optometrists at the expense of consumers.
The Coalition is urging Congress to reject the Cassidy bill or any other legislative or regulatory proposals that would weaken those protections. The Coalition is also calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the FCLCA and the Contact Lens Rule to ensure that optometrists comply with their legal requirement to provide prescriptions to patients and verify prescription requests from authorized retailers.
The Coalition strongly supports the FTC’s November 2016 proposal to add a strong pro-consumer provision to the Contact Lens Rule to address the repeated failure of many optometrists to provide consumers with a copy of their contact lens prescription.
The provision would add a requirement that optometrists obtain a signed acknowledgement from consumers after providing a prescription, and to keep that acknowledgement on hand for three years. This requirement would provide the FTC with a means to track those who are failing to follow this procedure and take action on behalf of consumers’ rights when a case warrants.
Alternative retailers like 1-800 Contacts, Lens.com and Costco Wholesale have been transforming the contact lens marketplace, allowing consumers to get their lenses faster and at affordable prices. These businesses represent innovative industry disrupters, similar to how Uber and AirBnb have disrupted the taxi and hotel industries. Our policymakers should be considering policies that encourage such pro-consumer innovation, not proposing legislation or regulations that would roll back consumer protections in current law.