Coalition forms opposing Senate contact lens legislation; Senators Lee, Klobuchar press FTC

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  In a letter sent Monday to the Federal Trade Commission, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. — the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights — urged the FTC to maintain vigilance over competition in the market for contact lenses. One day later, the newly formed Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice sent out a press release opposing what they call the “misleadingly named” Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act introduced into the U.S. Senate on April 11 by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

Lee said in a press release that contact lens consumers’ rights are being “repeatedly and openly violated” by lens prescribers who don’t comply with the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule, which requires doctors to give patients a copy of their prescription. This rule ensures that patients are able to choose from which retailer they purchase their contact lenses. Lee said:

It is essential that consumers be made aware of their rights, and that the FTC vigorously defend and enforce those rights. Our letter also asks the FTC to revisit its now decade-old study of competition in the contact lens industry. There are many concerning trends that deserve attention, including the cozy relationship between manufacturers and prescribers, the requirement for a brand to be listed on a contact lens prescription, and the inability of generic alternatives to come to market. It is paramount that our laws and antitrust enforcement policy encourage competition rather than facilitate kickbacks and create barriers to entry that raise prices for consumers.

You can read a copy of the full letter here.

Taking it a step further, the Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice specifically mentioned Cassidy’s Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act in their press release.

The coalition stated that their advocacy campaign is intended to serve as a voice for American contact lens consumers. Initial members of the coalition include 1-800Contacts, Costco Wholesale and However, the press release stated that contact lens wearers, optometrists and other eye care professionals, consumer groups, good government advocacy organizations and other retailers and industry stakeholders have also been invited to join the coalition.

Regarding contact lens consumer protection, the coalition stated:

In 2003, Congress enacted the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) to address anti-competitive practices that had emerged in a contact lens market uniquely saddled with conflicts of interests. Unlike other medical professionals and industries, optometrists are allowed to sell the very products they prescribe and many are also retailers of contact lenses.

The coalition labeled Cassidy’s legislation a “blatant attempt” by the American Optometric Association — the trade association for optometrists — to undermine the consumer protections of the 2003 Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act.

The coalition has posted a petition on their website urging U.S. senators and representatives to reject the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act. According to their press release, more than 17,000 people have signed the petition since Monday.

Contact lens consumer protection has also made an appearance in the Utah Legislature. In the 2015 legislative general session, a Senate bill was passed and subsequently signed into law making Utah the first state to ban contact lens manufacturers from fixing retail prices on contact lenses.

Read more: Utah bans contact lens price-fixing; viewpoints 

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