The Contact Lens Consumers Act
In 2003, legislators passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) so that contact lens-wearers would have the same rights as their spectacled friends when it came to purchasing their choice of vision correction. As you will see, the law also protects eye health.
Law Protects You from Crooked Providers
The FCLCA allows anyone who’s received an eye exam and been fitted for contact lenses to get their prescription and look around for more competitive prices. Prior to the legislation becoming law in 2004, anyone wearing contact lenses was at the mercy of his or her eye care provider when it came to getting a copy of the prescription and shopping around. The FCLCA was developed as a way to protect the rights –and vision- of consumers.
It’s a shame that this legislation even had to be enacted, but it’s designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous practices. Legislators saw a conflict and decided to take action. While most doctors write prescriptions that a patient can have filled at the pharmacy of their choice, eye care providers were forcing their patients to purchase contacts directly from their office.
Law Decreases Incidents of Eye Infections
There was also a health-related reason for the FCLCA’s enactment. Researchers discovered that the main issue with contact lens problems is price. With close to 36 million people wearing contact lenses, studies found that when price is a factor, contact lens-wearer are more likely to wear disposable contacts longer than recommended, a behavior that leaves them at tremendous risk of contracting serious eye infections. A 1997 survey conducted by a contact lens manufacturer backed up these findings. When patients were asked if they’d follow their doctor’s contact lens cleaning and disposal instructions correctly if contact lens prices were more affordable, 60 percent of those surveyed said yes.
Use this Law to Protect your Rights
So exactly how might the FCLCA help you? The law requires that your vision care specialists provide patients with a copy of their prescription, even if it’s not requested. They are also mandated to verify a prescription to anyone who is acting on behalf of the patient. This includes the offices of other eye care providers and contact lens sellers.
In addition, prescribers cannot require patients to purchase from them, force them to sign any waivers or tack on any additional fees in exchange for a copy of a contact lens prescription. Prescriptions are typically valid for one year unless the patient has a vision problem that may require more frequent examinations. The only requirement on the patient’s part is that the exam must be paid for or proof of valid vision insurance must be presented.
Consumers can be assured that their prescription won’t be “held hostage” if they decide to shop someplace else besides their eye care provider. The FCLCA requires sellers to follow something known as the “Eight-Hour Rule” which requires eye care doctors to verify contact lens prescriptions within 8 business hours of hearing from a seller. An hour is defined as the first full hour after the prescriber is contacted and does not include weekends or holidays unless the seller has reason to believe that the prescriber is open.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if a seller requests prescription verification from a buyer at 10 a.m. on Monday, the prescriber has until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday to complete the verification. If 8 business hours pass without communication, the seller has the legal right to fill the prescription as long as there’s no reason to believe that any of the information provided is incorrect or false.
Just because FCLCA legislation is in place doesn’t mean that everyone is playing by the rules. Now that you know your rights as a contact lens-wearer and consumer, it’s important that you file a complaint if your vision specialist fails to abide by the laws. Should your eye care provider refuse to give you a copy of your prescription, you can report the incident to the FTC by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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