FTC’s Updated Contact Lens Rule Has Gone Back into Effect This Week

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WASHINGTON—After a months-long suspension, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) revised Contact Lens Rule and its paperwork requirements went back into effect Thursday, April 1. In late December, legislation approved by Congress had delayed the implementation, effective date and enforcement of the FTC’s updated Contact Lens Rule until March 31, as VMAIL  reported. The move to delay implementation was set out in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021—or what was referred to as the stimulus and coronavirus recovery bill that provided $600 to many Americans.

The new CL Rule, announced in mid-2020 had first taken effect Oct. 17, and it includes record-keeping requirements that many ECPs view as onerous.

In a post issued this week, the American Optometric Association (AOA) noted that under the new requirements, contact lens prescribers—doctors of optometry and ophthalmologists—must have patients sign acknowledgement forms indicating they are in receipt of their prescriptions. Practices also can adhere to the new regulations by seeking patient consent to send contact lens prescriptions electronically—such as through a patient portal or email. Further, practices are now required to keep a record of those confirmations for at least three years.

AOA also is offering an FTC Rule Compliance Toolkit to help practices stay in compliance with the new requirements.

The penalty for noncompliance can result in legal action including civil monetary penalties of up to $42,530 for each violation, according to AOA. The association noted that it will “continue to stand firmly against” this threat against doctors. If the FTC were to receive a complaint regarding a doctor’s practice, the agency reports that it would then engage directly with the practice to gather details and assess the situation to determine a fine it deems appropriate, if necessary, AOA noted.

"For many years, the AOA has fought the FTC on this rule that requires eyecare providers who perform contact lens exams to obtain a patient's signature when a contact lens prescription is released,” Robert Theaker, OD, chair of the AOA’s Federal Relations Committee, said. “I wish this was an April Fool’s joke, but the new FTC rule that will be enforced beginning on April 1 is no laughing matter for us, our practices and our patients as we must comply with an onerous new government regulation. The AOA believes this unnecessary rule attempts to solve a problem that doesn't exist, as our profession knows, understands and complies with the prescription release requirements in the law.”