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Senator Chuck Schumer wants Consumers to Buy Glasses Online

chuck schumer

I ran across this interesting press release and story about Senator Chuck Schumer as he is encouraging consumers to order glasses online.  Senator Schumer, who is a Democrat from New-York, is urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to change what is known as the “Eyeglass Rule” specifically to require that eye doctors and vision health centers provide pupilary distance (PD) to patients along with prescriptions.  Typically when ordering glasses online not having a pupillary distance measurement is a major hang-up for a lot of consumers as it is easiest to get it measured by a eyecare professional.  It can be done by an individual but many do not hassle with it. PD is required when ordering glasses as it is the distance between the pupils center-to-center.  Most eye doctors do not include the PD information with eyeglasses prescriptions so many consumers find it difficult to shop for less expensive alternative options.

The other items that Senator Chuck Schumer would like to see the FTC change is requiring prescription providers to verify patient prescriptions to third party sellers. This obviously would encourage competition and make it easier for online eyeglasses retailers to fill customer lenses prescriptions accurately.  He also wants prescription information to be good for longer than 1 year so that consumers can readily compare and shop around for a better deals. The entire letter to the FTC chairwomen Ramirez can be read below.

What’s interesting is in the press release is that Senator Schumer says that average cost of glasses is over $300, which is more than a basic iPad.  He points out this price is not realistic for many Americans and he mentions the online glasses market and what a great option that is for American consumers that need vision correction. Schumer believes that it should be easy to buy glasses through these companies like any other products or services these days.  What is also interesting the Democratic Senator specifically calls out the vision and optical juggernaut Luxottica, which controls 80% of eyewear brands and owns PearleVision, LensCrafters,  Sears Optical, Target Optical, etc. Senator Schumer made this announcement in front of a LensCrafters in New York City actually.

We totally agree with Senator Schumer that it should be easier to buy glasses online and that eye doctors should be required to provide a PD measurement to patients.  It would be great if they had to verify the prescription information as well which would make the process more streamlined for consumers.  Since Senator Chuck Schumer wears glasses himself I’m sure he would also appreciate an easier process.

What do you think about Chuck Schumer saying glasses should be more affordable and that the FTC should change the “Eyeglass Rule?”  Do you support these changes?

Editors’ Note – The press release is from September 27th, 2015 but the information is being posted here since OpticalOwl believes the information is relevant to consumers looking to order glasses online.

SCHUMER REVEALS: AVG. PRICE OF EYEGLASSES NOW AT MORE THAN $300 & GOING UP—CONSUMERS ARE DEPRIVED OF COMPLETE PRESCRIPTION INFO WHICH WOULD ALLOW THEM TO SHOP AROUND AT STORES & ONLINE FOR BEST DEAL; SENATOR URGES FTC TO ESTABLISH NEW RULES THAT WOULD PROMOTE COMPETITION & DRAMATICALLY LOWER EYEGLASS PRICES – [PRESS RELEASE]

Right Now, Feds Considering Making Changes To National “Eyeglass Rule” That Schumer Says Should Modernize The Eyewear Industry For The 21st Century; Current Rules Don’t Give Patients Enough Choice & Often Force Them To Buy More Expensive Eyeglasses Because Competing Retailers—Like Those Online & Elsewhere—Cannot Verify Prescription Info

Online Sellers Are Breaking Into Market, Offering Quality Products For Far Less, But Current Marketplace Conditions Should Be Eye-Opener To Feds & The Millions Of Consumers Who Wear And Purchase Glasses; There’s Not Enough Competition

Schumer: The Cost Of Eyewear Has Consumers Seeing Red; Feds Must Focus In On A Solution Before Prices Go Higher

Standing at LensCrafters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to modernize its “Eyeglass Rule” to allow for 21st-century competition by allowing patients to obtain a full copy of their eyeglass prescriptions so they can take that prescription anywhere they want—even online. Under current law, patients are not entitled to their full prescription, a situation that often forces them to pay more when buying glasses. Schumer explained that, while more than 200 million Americans are affected by vision loss, the average price for a pair of eyeglasses is a whopping $300 with no end in sight. Glasses are becoming harder and harder for many Americans to afford. Schumer noted that eye care providers like ophthalmologists, opticians, optometrists and other eye technicians provide very important services to their patients, and often buying glasses on site can be a convenient and valuable service. However, current regulations limit competition; for example, they do not require eye doctors to provide complete prescriptions to patients or to verify prescription information to third party dispensers. Schumer went on to say that this omission can limit consumer choice and lead to higher prices. Given the high demand for eyeglasses, Schumer said that consumers should have the ability to shop around in search of a more affordable price and not be limited to the eyeglasses offered in the store where they get their eye exam. The FTC is currently reviewing the “Eyeglass Rule,” and Schumer said that their update should require eye care providers to provide complete prescriptions to their patients and opens the door for more competition within the industry, while still protecting patient safety and providing for quality in eye care.

“Eyeglasses are a necessity for millions of Americans, yet sky-high prices are making them unaffordable. We need more oversight when it comes to the cost of eyeglasses and one way to do that is to require patients get their full prescriptions so they can shop around in stores and online for the best deal. Consumers need more options when it comes to eyeglasses and that’s why the FTC should update the ‘Eyeglass Rule’ in a way that helps spur competition and dramatically lower prices,” said Senator Schumer.

Schumer is pushing the FTC to consider the following changes in order to help lower the cost of eyeglasses, while ensuring that quality and patient safety is protected:

  • Require eye care providers to provide complete eyeglass prescription information to consumers, including specifics like pupillary distance, which is an essential—sometimes elusive—piece of information consumers need in order to shop around.
  • Require prescription providers to verify prescription info for third party sellers in a reasonable time, allowing a consumer to take their prescription wherever they desire with the confidence of getting the right eyeglasses for the right price.
  • Require eyeglass prescriptions to last longer than just one year, so consumers have more time to comparison shop.

Schumer said these key actions would help address both the prescription barriers consumers have been facing for years and the price-point spikes they continue to see. Additionally, Schumer said his push is being made to spur the FTC to recognize the increasing role of e-commerce in the eyeglass marketplace. Currently, there are eyeglass providers that exist in the online marketplace. Although many offer quality eyeglass—often at far less the cost—their barriers to entry in the eyeglass industry remain high due to the current hurdles Schumer is working to address. Schumer said eyeglass policy needs to be brought into the 21st Century and that means giving credible online retailers a chance to compete for business, which will help lower the costs for all. At the same time, the FTC must ensure that unscrupulous providers, many overseas, cannot take advantage of Americans need to save money on necessary eye care. Schumer says that buying glasses online should be as easy as anything else these days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vision loss is a serious public health issue that promises to worsen over the next three decades. Right now, more than 200 million Americans are affected by vision loss, and given the negative impact that poor vision can have on worker productivity, automobile safety, and school performance, Schumer said that eyeglass affordability is a critical consumer issue that affects the entire country. Despite the prevalence of eyeglasses in America, the average cost for a pair of eyeglasses is $300 and rising. Schumer said there are several reasons for the sky-high cost.

Luxoticca, an Italian company, which owns LensCrafters and more than 80 percent of eyewear brands. For instance, Luxoticca makes frames for well-known brands like Burberry, Prada, and Tory Burch. In addition, Luxoticca owns several other popular American eyeglass chains such as Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. Schumer explained that Luxoticca has a monopoly-like hold over the eyewear industry and that this push, along with other actions, could help weaken this hold. Additionally, many health plans do not adequately cover eye care, while forces patients to pay out of pocket.

Moreover, current regulations do not require eye doctors to provide complete prescription information to consumers or to verify prescription information to third party dispensers. The FTC is currently requesting public comment on its “Eyeglass Rule” and is soliciting comments about the efficiency, costs, benefits, and regulatory impact of the rule. Schumer said that, as part of this review, the FTC should make changes to the rule to ensure that consumers are given enough choice when it comes to purchasing eyewear. Schumer said that consumers should have the opportunity to shop around at stores and online for the best deal and one way to help ensure that would be for the FTC to require that eye care providers give complete prescription information to consumers.

Schumer is urging the FTC to make sure that the ‘Eyeglass Rule’ continues to protect patient safety and ensure quality eye care, while considering adding three specific requirements. First, Schumer said the FTC should require complete prescription information for consumers, including the pupillary distance measurement. Second, Schumer said the FTC should require that optometrists require prescription information for third parties in a reasonable amount of time. Lastly, Schumer said the FTC should require that prescriptions not expire unduly quickly; right now, prescriptions expire after one year.

Schumer’s letter to the FTC is below:

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez,

I understand that, in accordance with its regulatory review schedule, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reviewing the Ophthalmic Practice Rules (“Eyeglass Rule”). I am glad that the Commission has opened the proceeding, and I write today to formally submit comments. In summary, I urge the Commission to consider changes that will modernize the existing regulatory environment and better reflect and respond to the needs of both consumers and businesses in the current marketplace.

The prohibitive cost of glasses is a problem that affects the majority of American families. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified vision loss as a serious public health issue that promises to worsen over the next three decades. More than 100 million Americans are affected by vision loss, and given the negative impact that poor vision can have on worker productivity, automobile safety, and school performance, eyeglass affordability is a critical consumer issue that affects the entire country.

Given the high demand for eyeglasses, there should be extensive and healthy competition keeping prices affordable. However, as any American who has purchased glasses knows, prices are anything but reasonable. In particular, today’s rules should take advantage of the innovations in e-commerce to facilitate comparison shopping and competition. I urge the Commission to consider, among other changes, requiring optometrists to provide complete prescription information (including pupillary distance measurement) to consumers and to verify prescription information to third party dispensers. The omission of these elements in current rules limits consumer choice and leads to higher prices. In addition, the Commission should consider whether short term prescriptions (for example, a year or less), are appropriate or fair for consumers given that vision does not necessarily change more rapidly.

Of course, the Commission should be mindful that there may be unscrupulous online retailers who try to take advantage of American consumers by offering cheap, low-quality eyewear. As the Commission considers updates to its rule, it must ensure that the changes protect high-quality, legitimate online providers without encouraging the bad actors.

The Commission has done a great job keeping the Contact Lens Rule updated to match evolving market and technological conditions; I urge it to do the same with the Eyeglass Rule.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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