FTC Finalizes the Eyeglass Rule

FTC Finalizes the Eyeglass Rule

The Federal Trade Commission finalized updates to its Ophthalmic Practice Rule, also known as the Eyeglass Rule, on Thursday, June 27. This marks the end of a thorough multi-year review aimed at boosting competition in the prescription lens market and empowering consumers with more choices.

The recent updates aim to improve compliance with the requirement that eye doctors must provide patients with a free copy of their Rx immediately after a refractive eye exam. Additionally, the revised rule now mandates that in specific situations, prescribers must obtain a patient's signature confirming receipt of their prescription and maintain a record of this confirmation for at least three years.

“For decades, the FTC’s Eyeglass Rule has promoted competition by ensuring that consumers can shop around for lower prices,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC’s updated rule will strengthen compliance and make this market more fair and competitive.”

When initially introduced in 1978, the Eyeglass Rule aimed to enhance consumer choice and fosterFTC is making the eyeglass market more fair for consumers with the eyeglasses rule competition within the eyeglass market. A crucial aspect of the Eyeglass Rule is that prescribers must furnish patients with a copy of their prescription promptly after the exam, regardless of whether the patient requests it.

Moreover, under the current rule, prescribers are prohibited from mandating that patients purchase eyeglasses before receiving their prescription, imposing liability waivers on the prescription, requiring patients to sign waivers to obtain their prescription, or charging additional fees for a copy of the prescription. Prescribers are also barred from withholding an eye exam unless the patient buys eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other ophthalmic goods from them.

Despite being in effect since 1978, prescribers have not consistently adhered to the automatic release requirement. Due to numerous complaints over the years, the FTC has issued warning letters to prescribers as reminders about the Eyeglass Rule. Nevertheless, consumer surveys have shown that many patients do not automatically receive their prescriptions following the exam.

Following the receipt of over 800 public comments, the Commission proposed updates to the rule in December 2022 to tackle ongoing non-compliance issues.

FTC makes it a requirement to obtain signature of receipt from your patient stating that they received their prescriptionThe recent changes necessitate that prescribers, post-prescription provision, ask their patients to sign a statement confirming receipt of their prescription and retain a record of this confirmation for a minimum of three years. These new confirmation requirements, largely mirroring those for contact lens prescriptions, only apply to optometrists and ophthalmologists with a financial stake in selling prescription eyewear.


Other changes to the rule:

  • Allows prescribers, with a patient’s verifiable affirmative consent, to provide the patient with a digital copy of a prescription instead of a paper copy; if the patient refuses the digital copy, the prescriber must provide a paper copy;
  • Explicitly specifies that, whether the patient consents to digital delivery or opts for a paper copy of their prescription, the prescription must be provided immediately after the examination is completed (not after the patient has been sold glasses, for instance). A patient must have their prescription before any offer to sell them glasses.
  • Clarifies that presentation of proof of insurance coverage shall be deemed to be a payment to determine when a prescription must be provided.
  • Changes the term “eye examination” to “refractive eye examination” throughout the text and emphasizes the need for prescribers to educate consumers that there can be a difference between an eye health examination and a refractive eye examination. This is because the automatic release of prescriptions is only required following a refractive eye examination.

The Commission vote approving the final rule was 5-0.

Subscribe To The IcareLabs Blog

Leave a Comment