Everything You Need to Know About Updates to The FTC’s Contact Lens Rule in 2020

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Introduction

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) amended the Contact Lens Rule this year, going into effect on October 16th, 2020. This rule was originally issued in 2004 to spell out the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumer Act’s (FCLCA) requirements which gives you certain rights. An example of those rights, is the right to shop around when buying contact lenses instead of being limited to purchasing your lenses from your prescriber. This helps to enhance consumer choice and competition among contact lens sellers, and benefiting you.

What is the intent of the Contact Lens Rule?

The Contact Lens Rule has two key requirements:

  1. Contact lens prescribers like optometrists and ophthalmologists, must provide patients with a copy of their contact lens prescriptions at the completion of a contact lens fitting.
  2. A contact lens seller cannot provide contact lenses to its customer unless the seller either obtains a copy of the prescription or verifies the prescription information with the prescriber through procedures set forth in the Rule. 

What are the important changes?

  1. Prescribers must give patients a copy of their contact lens prescriptions at the end of a contact lens fitting unprompted.
  2. Prescribers can provide a digital copy of your contact lens prescription instead of a paper copy, provided it is consented by the patient.

Additional Stipulations

  1. Prescribers must furnish contact lens prescriptions to the patient or sellers within 40 business hours when the patient themselves or their agents (eg: sellers) request the prescription.
  2. Prescribers cannot disown liability or responsibility for the accuracy of an eye examination.
  1. Prescribers must ask the patient to sign and date a form acknowledging receipt of the contact lens prescription. If the patient refuses to do so, a staff may sign the form detailing the patient’s refusal. The acknowledgment must be kept for three years.
  2. Prescribers must confirm contact lens prescriptions within 8 business hours when requested by sellers once a patient has submitted a prescription to a seller. 
  3. Prescribers must furnish contact lens prescriptions to the patient or sellers within 40 business hours when the patient themselves or their agents (eg: sellers) request the prescription.
  4. Prescribers cannot make it mandatory for patients to buy contact lenses from them, pay additional fees, or sign a waiver or release in exchange for a copy of the contact lens prescription.
  5. Prescribers cannot disown liability or responsibility for the accuracy of an eye examination.

What should you do?

  1. Know your rights.
  2. Demand your prescriber provides what you have paid for. 
  3. You should now receive your contact lens prescription at the end of your fitting without having to ask for it, pay additional fees or sign a waiver from your prescriber. The onus is now on the practitioner to comply with the law by providing your prescription, unprompted, as soon as your contact lens fitting session ends.
  4. You can request to receive a digital copy of your contact lens prescription instead of a paper copy, provided you have consented for it.
  5. Upon purchasing contact lenses for yourself online or through a different seller,
    1. you can submit your contact lens prescription and expect your prescriber to be able to confirm it within 8 business hours.
    2. you or the seller of your choice in representing you, can request a copy of your contact lens prescription and expect to receive it within 40 business hours from the prescriber.

What do these changes mean for you as a consumer?

The amendments made to The Contact Lens Rule simply means you now have more freedom of choice to select where and how you would like to purchase your contact lenses. This benefits you if you:

  • prefer to purchase contact lenses online due to mobility or financial reasons

Pro Tip: Ordering your contact lenses online helps you keep track of your order schedule — Lens.com sends e-mail reminders when it’s getting close to refill time.

What happens if your prescriber fails to comply?

A failure to comply with Contact Lens Rule regulations can result in legal action including civil monetary penalties of up to $42,530 per violation. As a consumer, you have the right to lodge a complaint to the FTC, should there be a violation.

To report a violation to the FTC, please follow the directions below. You can report violations of the FCLCA, sales of contact lenses without prescriptions, non-FDA approved CLs sales, and other violations to the FTC.

1. Go to: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted#crnt.

2. Click “Other” on the bottom left of the screen.

3. Under the “Other” menu, click “Health and Fitness,” the last item.

4. On the next page, click “Other/Not Applicable.”

5. Click the first selection, “Eyeglasses or Contact Lens.”

6. Select the options that match your complaint until completed. 

For more details about the changes made to the Contact Lens Rule, visit https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/contact-lens-rule-guide-prescribers-sellers