FTC reminds eyeglass providers: it’s watching

Eyeglass prescribers not currently handing out prescriptions immediately following an exam, take note: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is watching. In a reminder to follow the rules, the FTC sent 38 letters to prescribers warning them of potential violations to the agency’s “Opthalmic Practice Rules,” otherwise known as the “Eyeglass Rule.” Failure to adhere to the rule may prove costly, as civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation may be imposed.

Eyeglass rule

The Rule (16 C.F.R. sec. 456) requires prescribers to provide any patient who has had an eye exam with a copy of his or her eyeglass prescription immediately following that exam. The patient does not need to request it. Prescribers cannot require that patients buy eyeglasses as a condition of providing them with a copy of their prescription, nor can they charge a patient to provide a copy of the prescription. The Rule further states that prescribers cannot provide a notice of liability waiver or require patients to sign a liability waiver. The rule does not, however, apply to ophthalmologists or optometrists employed by any Federal, State or local government entity.

Some providers with complaints filed against them received the letters encouraging them to comply. Included in each letter is a reminder of the rule, an explanation of the rule, and advice on where to get further information. The FTC has posted on its website instructions for providers on “Complying with the Eyeglass Rule,” which provide details on what is required. Violations of the Eyeglass rule may be reported to the FTC.