Federal Trade Commission staff sent 37 new cease and desist letters to eyeglass prescribers, including optometrists and ophthalmologists, warning them of potential violations of the agency’s Ophthalmic Practice Rules, known as the Eyeglass Rule, which ensures consumers the right to comparison shop for prescription eyeglasses.
The Eyeglass Rule requires prescribers to provide patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription immediately after an eye exam that includes a refraction, even if the patient does not request it. Under the rule, prescribers also cannot require that patients buy eyeglasses as a condition of providing them with a copy of their prescription, place a liability waiver on the prescription, require patients to sign a waiver, or require patients to pay an additional fee in exchange for a copy of their prescription. Prescribers further cannot refuse to perform an eye exam unless the patient buys eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other ophthalmic goods from them.
The letters, sent as a result of reported violations, remind the prescribers that they are required to provide patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription immediately after an eye exam, even if the patient does not request it. The letters also warn the prescribers that violations of the Eyeglass Rule may result in legal action, including civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation.
Finally, the letters require the recipients to contact the staff within five days of receipt describing the specific action they plan to take to address the reported violations.
Along with the letters, staff provided prescribers with links to its business guidance publication, Complying with the Eyeglass Rule. The FTC has recently updated information to help consumers understand their rights under federal law. See: Buying Prescription Glasses or Contact Lenses: Your Rights.
The primary staffer responsible for the cease and desist letters announced today is Sarah Botha in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.