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Consumers Union opens eyes at anti-consumer contact lens pricing at Senate hearing

July 30, 2014

Consumers Union Opens Eyes at Anti-Consumer Contact Lens Pricing at Senate Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – At a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing today, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, will testify on competition in the contact lens industry and how new pricing methods could help to boost manufacturers and doctors’ bottom lines while forcing consumers to pay more.

Major contact lens manufacturers have recently begun shifting to a new pricing policy to dictate that their lenses have to be sold by retailers and doctors at or above a set price, prohibiting anyone from offering discounts. Ultimately, consumers lose the ability to shop around for a better price.

George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, will testify at the hearing to call attention to questionable and anti-consumer practices in the industry. A full copy of his testimony is available here.

Slover said, “This type of rigid pricing hurts consumers who are looking to get a better deal and it hurts discount retailers who want to give consumers a break. Ultimately, consumers are denied more affordable alternatives and retailers are denied the right to reach cost-conscious consumers with a better deal. While previous laws were passed to remove the chains that once tied eye care services to lens sales, unilateral pricing is beginning to replace those chains with a silken cord that has a similar binding effect.”

Consumers Union worked to help pass the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003 that enabled consumers to shop around for contact lenses by requiring eye doctors to give patients a copy of the prescription free of charge. The testimony notes that while the 2003 law gave consumers the ability to shop for a better price outside their doctor, the new industry pricing standards are once again effectively tying eye care services to the sale of contact lenses by removing the benefit of comparison shopping.

“In a truly competitive market, if one manufacturer tries this kind of rigid pricing, another would step in and take advantage, appealing to cost-conscious consumers with a lower price. Yet that kind of competition could now be absent in the contact lens industry. We hope antitrust enforcers will take a close look at these anti-consumer industry practices,” said Slover.

The Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights Subcommittee hearing, entitled Pricing Policies and Competition in the Contact Lens Industry: Is What You See What You Get?, is scheduled for 2:15 PM. For more information, please visit www.judiciary.senate.gov.