1-800 Contacts reports OD FCLCA violations
1-800 Contacts has notified the FTC of nearly 28,000 violations of the FCLCA by eyecare providers.
Among its chief complaints, the company says ODs often violate the FCLCA by not giving prescriptions to patients. 1-800 Contacts disagrees with ODs not releasing prescriptions to online retailers.
By not releasing the Rx—whether inadvertently or on purpose—the company says ODs are breaking the law and increasing the possibility of the sale of an expired prescription. This, 1-800 Contacts says, violates the trust of patients who believe their OD is looking out for their best interests.
Williams says 1-800 Contacts identified those violations using its own recorded phone records over a four-month period. When a patient called the company to place an order but didn’t have her prescription on hand, the company offers to contact her eyecare provider, acting as the patient’s agent. If the patient agrees—and Williams says patients agree 90 percent of the time on phone orders—the company has the right to contact the eyecare provider to obtain the patient’s prescription.
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Williams says the company chose these orders to use to identify the violations because it wanted recorded proof that the patients understood what they were allowing the company to do.
The company faced problems in the past with the methods by which it asked patients for approval to act as their agent online after the eyecare community argued that patients were confused by the process. Williams says the company worked with the FTC to come up with a system in which the patient checks a box to opt in to having the company act as his agent—compared to the previous system in which the patient had to opt out.
The AOA agrees with consumer advocates who assert that the use of pre-selected boxes that force consumers to affirmatively opt out is deceptive and unfair to consumers and should be avoided.
Says Mike Stokes, AOA general counsel: “The AOA notified federal officials about this egregious overreach and violation of patient confidence, and we saw that 1-800 Contacts discontinued use of that particular form. The use of a pre-checked box on an order form for contact lenses is one more example of an industry that, we believe, at times downplays valid concerns about informed decision making and patient privacy in the interest of increasing sales and profits.”
While 1-800 Contacts is pointing fingers at optometrists, the FTC says online contact lens retailers have violated the FCLCA as well. In April 2016, the FTC issued warnings to 10 contact lens retailers and 45 prescribers for violating the law and reminding both that violations could include civil penalties up to $16,000 per violation. The FTC did not disclose which companies or eyecare providers received the letters.