FTC: Consumers Must Be Given Eyeglass Prescriptions to Help Them Comparison Shop

The Federal Trade Commission has sent 38 letters to U.S. eyeglass prescribers, warning them of stiff civil penalties for violations of the agency’s Ophthalmic Practice Rules, also known as the Eyeglass Rule.

The rule requires eye care providers, such as ophthalmologists, opticians and optometrists, to provide consumers with their full eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions.
The rule is designed to help consumers save money, and not be forced to buy eyeglasses or contacts through their eyecare provider’s outlet.
The rule requires prescribers to provide patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription immediately after an eye exam, even if the patient does not request it. Under the Rule, prescribers cannot require that patients buy eyeglasses as a condition of providing them with a copy of their prescription.
More than 200 million Americans are affected by vision loss. Meanwhile, the average price for a pair of eyeglasses is a whopping $300. Many online outlets provide cheaper alternatives for eyeglass wearers, but they need to have the full prescriptions before ordering.
The FTC explains that the Eyeglass Rule also prohibits prescribers from requiring patients to sign a liability waiver, or requiring patients to pay an additional fee in exchange for their prescription. Prescribers also cannot condition performance of an eye exam on the patient’s agreement to buy eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other ophthalmic goods from them.
The letters warn the prescribers that violations of the Rule may result in legal action, including civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation.

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