Federal Trade Commission

Feds Fine Business $60,000 for Selling Non-Prescription Contact Lenses Without a Prescription

The California-based retailer could have been hit with a fine of $575,000.

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Solent News / Splash News/Newscom

A California-based online retailer has been ordered to pay a penalty of $60,000 for selling non-corrective, purely cosmetic contact lenses without first obtaining prescriptions for the non-prescription products.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says Lawrence Duskin repeatedly violated the agency's Contact Lens Rule, which stipulates that retailers can sell contact lenses only after obtaining a copy of a valid prescription or otherwise verifying the consumer's prescription with the physician who issued it. The rule applies even to non-corrective lenses like the ones Duskin had been selling through a variety of online costume shops since at least 2014. The commission initially fined Duskin $575,000—the largest fine ever issued for a violation of the Contact Lens Rule—before suspending all but $60,000 of the penalty, conditioned on Duskin complying with a variety of record-keeping and administrative requirements.

It's probably pretty easy to understand why Duskin wasn't verifying his customers' prescription. You wouldn't expect to have to check for a prescription before selling a pair of goofy costume glasses or Quidditch goggles for a Harry Potter cosplay.

Alysa Bernstein, an attorney with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, says the strict rules are necessary because contact lenses are more intrusive than a pair of glasses.

"It's a medical device that's regulated by the [Food and Drug Administration], and it's something that goes directly onto your eye," Bernstein tells Reason. Getting the wrong size contacts can be a serious health risk, she said.

Yes, there are potential risks with sticking a tiny piece of plastic onto the front of your eyeball. Those risks should be pretty obvious to anyone who is voluntarily buying novelty contact lenses, and those consumers have a pretty good incentive to make sure they are getting the right size. Requiring a prescription just don't make much sense, not least because it's unclear how you'd go about getting a prescription for contact lenses if your vision is fine to begin with.

And if you can buy a gold-and-diamond-encrusted grill for your teeth—also an FDA-regulated medical device, by the way, and one that comes with a list of potential health risks—without needing a prescription from a dentist, it seems like the same standard should apply here.

This is not merely a theoretical debate over the best way to regulate (or deregulate) costume eyewear. The mandatory prescription rule is one of the reasons why actual prescription contact lenses are more expensive than they should be. Because of the rule, most contact lens sales are handled by the same people who make contact lens prescriptions. It's an uncommon arrangement, and one that "leads to a cozy relationship between manufacturers and the doctors who can steer patients toward their brand," as Veronique de Rugy, a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, put it in a 2016 piece for Reason.

"Prescriptions are brand-specific. This makes it difficult for consumers to shop around," she explained. "Choosing a different brand would require paying for another exam in order to obtain a new prescription."

Eliminating the contact lens prescription requirement would increase competition and lower prices by allowing consumers more freedom to shop around. It works that way in Europe and Japan, but the estimated 40 million Americans who wear contact lenses don't have that option. More affordable and readily available contact lenses would also allow more people who need corrective lenses to have them.

And of course, it would put an end to silliness like the federal government handing down a six-figure fine for selling a part of a costume.

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34 responses to “Feds Fine Business $60,000 for Selling Non-Prescription Contact Lenses Without a Prescription

  1. Yes, there are potential risks with sticking a tiny piece of plastic onto the front of your eyeball. Those risks should be pretty obvious to anyone who is voluntarily buying novelty contact lenses, and those consumers have a pretty good incentive to make sure they are getting the right size.

    There’s a whole army of trial lawyers are shaking their heads and saying, “No, those risks are NOT obvious to our past, present and future clients.”

    1. I don’t know about you, but my eyes do not in any way try to reflect any and all attempts to stick anything in my them. That’s why it is so necessary. If your body doesn’t know better then I need help.

  2. I wonder how those folks who grant licenses and the folks who create regulations would react if they were told they had to get a license to license and had to follow regulations to regulate

    1. Trump should have made that one of his EO’s. All regulators are mandated to get 8,760 hours of training before they can ever write a regulation and must retake the 8760 hours of training every year to re-certify. And they must pay for the training themselves.

      1. Quite possibly the…
        Greatest. Idea. Ever.

      2. I love it. A race to the top between regulators and licencees; if you require n hours of training in your regulation, you and all involved in its creation must have at minimum n+1 hours of training. Managed of course by another layer of regulators regulating the regulators, who in turn need (n+1)

    2. Actually it is one regulatory idea I could get behind. Every duly elected official would have to attend at least 120 hours of unpaid regulatory instruction and history to understand the reasons for regulation, the history of regulations and most importantly the “unintended consequences of regulation.

  3. And if you can buy a gold-and-diamond-encrusted grill for your teeth?also an FDA-regulated medical device, by the way, and one that comes with a list of potential health risks?without needing a prescription from a dentist, it seems like the same standard should apply here.

    I agree with – who wrote this? [scrolls back up] – Boehm, they should start requiring a dental prescription before giving out gold teeth.

  4. I’ve wondered for a while why I can’t just order replacement boxes of contact lenses to avoid the ridiculous opticians’ prices.

    Guess that answers that.

    1. You can…
      Look online.

      All you do is ask your eye doctor for a copy of your contact lens prescription so you can take a pic and send it to the online vendor.

  5. In another 5 to 10 years, at the rate we’re going, one will need a prescription before one can blow one’s own nose, or scratch one’s own butthole! As long as special interests make more money, and regulators get more power, our superiors will be OK with it!

    1. At this time, it is illegal in some states to clean up after you have a nosebleed. A hazmat company is required.

      At least when they mandated mercury filled light bulbs they (eventually) passed corrective regulation to allow a homeowner to clean up after a broken bulb, without the hazmat fees.

      1. I work for a small company that supplies much larger companies with specialized components. On a delivery, I snagged my hand on a nail that was protruding from a shipping pallet and I bled on the floor a little bit before I grabbed a shop rag, just part of the job. They had a medic, hazmat tech and HR rep on the scene and would not let me depart until I had been examined and signed a release.

        In my shop, we don’t get bureaucrats involved unless the injured party needs staples and a mop.

  6. >>>without needing a prescription from a dentist

    wasn’t there a Florida dude who got in trouble for making grills?

    1. https://reason.com/blog/2018/10…..rrest-fine

      A Florida Man Faces Prison for Making Grills Without a License
      Allen Turner didn’t know his business was illegal until it was too late.

      It is all because Government Almighty LOVES US more than WE CAN EVER KNOW!!!!

      1. Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

        Government loves me, This I know,
        For the Government tells me so,
        Little ones to GAWD belong,
        We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        My Nannies tell me so!

        GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
        Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
        Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
        And gives me all that I might need!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        My Nannies tell me so!

        DEA, CIA, KGB,
        Our protectors, they will be,
        FBI, TSA, and FDA,
        With us, astride us, in every way!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        My Nannies tell me so!

        1. Can I steal this? I will give you credit when we put out our next album.

          1. Steal at will… No credit needed!

            However, if’n ye are feeling generous when releasing that album, you can credit “The Government Almighty which we hold Near and Dear in our hearts, from Whom All Blessings Flow”!

            1. LOL.

  7. But won’t someone PLEASE think of the eye doctor’s children?

  8. Getting the wrong size contacts can be a serious health risk, she said.

    “And don’t even get me started about the wrong size *shoes*!”

  9. He didn’t sell a contact lens.
    A lens has the ability to alter your vision by bending light that passes through it.

    A window is rarely a lens.
    I wonder what defense he used.

  10. Protecting idiots from themselves is where this country started the derailing process…Punish a business for doing business and what will the government do with his money? Piss it away. Regulate government for every Constitutional violation they commit and fine them, it would pay off the deb or deficit. The Rule of Law, guys… minimum intrusion… pursuit of happiness…

  11. Nanny State 101

    1. And how you love you some nanny state when your tribe is in office, twit!

      1. Cite?

  12. Socialized healthcare = gov enforcement of healthcare rules

    The ftc or fda is not the problem. You cant have billions of state dollars paying for stupid decisions without expecting some sort of state intrusion into those choices.

    1. This is how lots of regulation starts. As soon as I have to pay for it, I want a say in what you do with the money. That is how it works in the real world.

      So if you want to reduce this can of Shitma, you have to reduce the amount of money you hand out.

  13. And the government hack used the word intrusive to describe something done voluntarily while defending active interference in other’s freedom of action.

  14. ” it’s something that goes directly onto your eye,” Bernstein tells Reason”. By this logic dildos should be regulated and available only by prescription.

  15. It’s not just contact lenses. Prescriptions are generally a bad idea.
    Take something like the drug Metformin, a drug used to reduce serum glucose levels. It’s used by more than 50,000,000 Americans and has been around for more than a quarter century. This is a drug that is safer than aspirin. The primary side-effect for some people is nausea or upset stomach.
    A year’s supply of Metformin at Wal-Mart costs $48. Some supermarket chains (Publix) provide it FREE of charge.
    But because Metformin is a prescription drug, 50 MILLION Americans have to go to doctors at least once a year to get the paperwork done. If a doctor spends just 10 minutes on the prescription, the National cost is over 4000 doctor-years. If the average person has to take 90 minutes out of their day for the doctors appointment, that’s 9,375,000 wasted man-days. At the average National wage of $22.95, that works out to be over $215 million WASTED.
    And that’s just for one drug.
    CPAP machines are another area of abuse. Prescription requires sleep study. Sleep studies are $1000-$5000. CPAP machines (little more than a small air pump) are $1000. 18 million people have sleep apnea. The cost of the CPAP prescription is more than $20 BILLION.
    And these are just two examples of how the Federal government makes medical care more expensive.

    1. Well stated.

  16. All FTC policies and procedures were followed. Nothing to see here.

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