March 4, 2022

The Federal Trade Commission announced on January 28, 2022 that New York City-based Vision Path, Inc., the online seller of direct-to-consumer Hubble lenses, will pay penalties and redress totaling $3.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it violated the Contact Lens Rule in several ways, including by failing to obtain prescriptions and to properly verify prescription information, and by substituting Hubble lenses for those actually prescribed to consumers.

Contact Lens Rule

The FTC’s Contact Lens Rule (CLR), as amended in June of 2020, requires prescribers to automatically provide patients a copy of their prescription at the completion of the contact lens fitting. Before selling lenses, sellers must either obtain a copy of the consumer’s prescription, or verify the patient’s prescription information with the consumer’s prescriber. Once a seller makes a valid verification request, it may sell the lenses identified in the verification if the prescriber does not deny the request or correct the prescription within eight business hours of the request. The CLR also prohibits prescription alteration by sellers.

According to the complaint, Vision Path, doing business as Hubble, violated the CLR and the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) by: 1) altering contact lens prescriptions from the prescribed brands to Hubble lenses; 2) failing to obtain or properly verify contact lens prescription information submitted by consumers; and 3) selling contact lenses after prescription verification requests were denied.

The complaint also alleges that Hubble violated the FTC Act by: 1) making deceptive representations that the company would ensure consumers received lenses with valid and accurate prescriptions, as determined by their eye care provider; 2) falsely claiming that certain consumer reviews were independent when they were not; and 3) failing to disclose material connections between Hubble and some reviewers.

According to the complaint, until the FTC began investigating, Hubble failed to ask consumers for copies of their contact lens prescriptions, and would not typically allow customers to upload, email, or otherwise provide their prescriptions – even when consumers offered to do so. This ensured that Hubble could not receive customers’ prescriptions, and thus could act as though it was unaware that these consumers had prescriptions for non-Hubble lenses.

Hubble would then contact a consumer’s prescriber seeking verification to provide them with Hubble lenses. Meanwhile, Hubble’s telephonic prescription verification system made it difficult, if not impossible, for prescribers to verify whether a patient’s prescription information was correct, or to deny such verification if it wasn’t. In some cases, no verification calls were made by Hubble at all, or Hubble left verification messages at telephone numbers that were clearly not those of an eyecare prescriber.

The consent order settling the complaint imposes two separate monetary penalties on Hubble. First, it requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $1.5 million. Next, it requires Hubble to pay $2 million in redress to provide refunds to consumers who were harmed by their conduct. The order also contains provisions barring Hubble from the illegal conduct alleged in the complaint, including violations of the FTC Act, the FCLCA, and the CLR.

Source

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