Contact Lenses :: FTC warns Halloween consumers that even cosmetic contact lenses require prescriptions

Planning to cap off your Halloween costume with a pair of cat-eye contact lenses? The Federal Trade Commission wants you to know that all contacts — even those that are cosmetic or theatrical — require a prescription.

A new publication from the nation’s consumer protection agency, “Avoiding an Eyesore: What to Know Before You Buy Cosmetic Contacts,” says that businesses that sell cosmetic contacts without requiring a prescription are violating the law, and that eye care professionals who provide eye exams must give consumers a copy of their prescription.

These requirements of the Contact Lens Rule address health concerns: lenses that don’t fit properly can cause problems such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) and scratches and sores on the cornea.

In 2003, Congress enacted the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, which imposed new prescription release and verification requirements on prescribers and sellers of contact lenses. In July 2004, the Commission issued the Contact Lens Rule to implement the Act. On November 9, 2005, Congress amended the law to state that all contact lenses, including cosmetic or colored contacts, are restricted medical devices. A prescription from a medical professional is required to purchase a restricted medical device. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “[d]ecorative contact lenses present significant risks of blindness and other eye injury if they are distributed without a prescription or without proper fitting by a qualified eye care professional.”

Other Business and Consumer Education Materials: To educate contact lens prescribers, sellers, and consumers about the Contact Lens Rule, the FTC staff has issued “The Contact Lens Rule: a Guide for Prescribers and Sellers,” and “The Eyes Have It – Get Your Prescription.”

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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