What do Hollywood classics Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane, Double Indemnity, and Fight Club have in common? They all begin with the end of the story. Because one of the business names used by the defendant in a recent FTC action is HollywoodColorContacts.com, we’ll honor that silver screen tradition by opening with the closer: All contact lenses – including non-corrective decorative lenses used to change the wearer’s appearance – are medical devices that require a prescription, and selling contacts without a prescription is illegal. The end. Fade to black. Roll credits.
In enacting the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, Congress directed the FTC to promulgate the Contact Lens Rule, which went into effect in 2004. Under the Rule, contact lens sellers may sell contacts only in accordance with a prescription that is either presented to the seller or verified by direct communication with the prescriber. The Rule also requires sellers to maintain records of the prescriptions, their verification requests, and their communications from prescribers.
In 2005 Congress amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to state that all contacts are medical devices that require a prescription. That includes corrective lenses people wear to improve their eyesight, as well as lenses that don’t correct vision, but instead change the wearer’s eye color or add a weird effect to the look of the iris.
In addition to HollywoodColorContacts.com, defendant Lawrence L. Duskin ran WorldColorContacts.com, and TopModelContacts.com. According to the FTC, he sold non-corrective contacts to consumers without getting a prescription or without verifying the buyer’s prescription with a prescriber. What’s more, he failed to keep records of customers’ prescriptions, his verification requests, and his communications from consumers’ prescribers. The complaint alleges that his conduct violated both the Contact Lens Rule and the FTC Act.
The proposed settlement in the case bans Duskin from the contact lens business for life. In other words, he can’t advertise, market, promote, dispense, or sell contacts and he can’t assist those who do. The order also imposes a $575,000 civil penalty for violating the Contact Lens Rule. Based on Duskin’s sworn financial statements and related documents, the judgment will be suspended upon his payment of $60,000. (The FTC reserves the right to go back to the Court to lift the suspension if it turns out that the defendant made any material misstatement or omission about his financial condition.)
Companies that sell contacts – including lenses sold for cosmetic purposes – should be well aware of the prescription requirement, their record-keeping responsibilities, and the law enforcement consequences of violating the Rule. Read Complying with the Contact Lens Rule and The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers for a recap on what’s required.
The message for consumers is that anyone who sells you contacts without a prescription is breaking the law. What other risks could that kind of company be taking with your safety? When it comes to your eyesight, don’t chance it. If beautiful browns or baby blues are that important to you, get a prescription.