The R Street Institute opposes S. 4613, a bill to amend the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act to prevent certain automated calls and to require notice of the availability of contact lens prescriptions to patients, and for other purposes, due to its restrictive nature that would harm contact lens consumers. If enacted, this bill would reduce consumers’ ability to shop for contact lenses based on competitive pricing—an ability that has continually faced opposition from a protectionist eyecare industry.

In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission issued the Contact Lens Rule, which was designed to protect consumers from predatory pricing for contact lens prescriptions; namely, the rule mandated that prescribers must give patients a copy of their contact lens prescription information so that they can buy lenses from third party sellers instead of only being able to buy them directly from the prescriber. In subsequent years, however, optometrist compliance with this rule was questioned; nothing in the rule ensured compliance, and complaints of optometrists not providing prescription information prompted the FTC to seek additional consumer protections.

Thus, the FTC amended the Contact Lens Rule in June 2020 to solidify further consumers’ ability to shop for contact lenses in the competitive marketplace; namely, the amendments require that prescribers must have patients sign a statement that they have received their prescription information and can shop around. The prescriber must keep these signatures for three years as evidence of compliance.

However, if passed, S. 4613 would roll back this newly minted signature process for ensuring patients get their prescription information. Further, it would ban the use of automated phone calls used by contact lens sellers to confirm a patient’s prescription information with a prescriber (which is required to fill a prescription).

“Both of these procedures in place are designed to protect consumers from suffering a monopolistic eyecare industry that would increase cost and decrease access,” said Courtney Joslin, a resident fellow in Commercial Freedom at the R Street Institute. Joslin also said, “Over the years, consumer watchdogs have seen multiple attempts from the industry to weaken patient rights to contact lens prescription information. This latest bill is the latest grab to undermine these rights, and legislators must work to ensure this does not pass.”