FTC Settlement Shuts Down Online Seller of Decorative Contact Lenses

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WASHINGTON—A California-based online seller of non-corrective, decorative contact lenses will pay a $60,000 penalty and be banned from all contact lens sales, according to an order issued last week by the Federal Trade Commission that settles FTC allegations that the online retailer has violated the Contact Lens Rule since at least 2014. (Overall, a U.S. District court imposed a $575,000 judgment, but much of it is being suspended.) The FTC’s complaint, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf, charges Lawrence L. Duskin with providing contact lenses to consumers without obtaining the required prescription, failing to verify the prescription information, and failing to keep the records required by the Rule, according to a statement the FTC posted on its website late last week.

According to the Commission’s complaint, Duskin marketed and sold decorative contact lenses online through HollywoodColorContacts.com, WorldColorContacts.com and TopModelContacts.com. (None of the websites were accessible Friday afternoon when VMAIL attempted to access the sites.) The FTC alleges that, since at least January 2014, Duskin provided contact lenses to consumers without obtaining their contact lens prescriptions or verifying the prescription information with consumers’ prescribers, in violation of the Rule.

VMAIL’s attempts to reach Duskin late last week were not successful.

Under the Contact Lens Rule, sellers may provide contact lenses to consumers only after either obtaining a copy of a valid prescription for the consumer or, alternatively, verifying the consumer’s prescription with the prescriber, according to the FTC. Sellers may not dispense lenses using an expired prescription, and may only substitute lenses under certain conditions, as specified in the Rule. The Rule applies to both corrective lenses and non-corrective, decorative lenses.

In addition, the FTC alleges that Duskin, in many instances, failed to maintain records of consumers’ contact lens prescriptions, requests to prescribers for verification of prescription information, and communications from prescribers, as the Rule requires. Further, the FTC alleges Duskin violated the FTC Act, as the conduct constituted unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.

The proposed court order settling the FTC’s complaint permanently bans Duskin from advertising, marketing, promoting, dispensing or selling contact lenses, as well as assisting anyone else in such activities. It also imposes a financial judgment of $575,000 against Duskin, the largest civil penalty to date in a matter alleging violations of the Contact Lens Rule.

Upon payment of $60,000, the remainder of the $575,000 will be suspended. If Duskin is later found to have misrepresented his financial condition to the Commission, the full amount will immediately become due, according to the FTC statement. The order also contains standard reporting, monitoring, and record-keeping provisions to ensure Duskin complies with terms of the order.

The Commission vote to refer the complaint and proposed consent order to the Department of Justice for filing was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf.