U.S. Supreme Court Declines Optical Chains’ Appeal to California Eye Exam Rule

SAN FRANCISCO—The U.S. Supreme Court rejected hearing an appeal by three entities representing “dispensing opticians” challenging a law that prevents optical retailers from offering on-site eye exams in the state of California. The state’s business codes permit only ophthalmologists and optometrists, considered health care providers, to provide such one-stop shopping for their patients.

After a 10-year legal battle, Luxottica Group’s (NYSE: LUX) LensCrafters chain, Highmark’s Eye Care Centers of America Inc. (ECCA) and the National Association of Optometrists & Opticians lost their appeal in a federal appellate court, as reported by VMail June 18, 2012. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined their petition regarding the case, leaving the law intact.

The California law disallows opticians and optical stores from selling eyewear and providing eye examinations in the same location. These restrictions apply to all opticians and optical stores whether the companies are based in California or elsewhere. In addition, the laws prohibit opticians and optical stores from furnishing, employing or maintaining optometrists and ophthalmologists on their premises, and it also prevents them from advertising that glasses and examinations are available at the same location.

Attorneys representing the “dispensing opticians” such as LensCrafters and ECCA (rebranded as VisionWorks), had made the argument that the laws were discriminatory to opticians and optical chains as well as to interstate commerce, while the state of California argued that co-location could result in conflicts of interest. Having brought the case as far as an unsuccessful attempt to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs have exhausted their opportunities for appeal.