Canadian Judge Rules Against Online Retailer Clearly


TORONTO—A Canadian judge has ruled in favor of two Ontario regulatory colleges that have filed lawsuit seeking to prevent Essilor’s Canadian online retail company, Clearly, from dispensing prescription eyewear over the internet. The College of Optometrists and the College of Opticians, both located here, jointly filed the application in December 2016. A hearing was held on Oct.11, 2017, and Justice Thomas Lederer delivered his decision on Jan. 11, 2018. In a message to its members, The College of Optometrists said, “Although we are still reviewing the decision in detail, we are pleased that the court has agreed with the position of the colleges on the questions we brought forward. The two colleges are motivated by, and required by legislation to maintain, patient safety and the public interest. It is possible that the company may appeal the decision—that is their option. If the company does appeal, the colleges will continue to defend the public interest in court.

“The colleges believe that the internet can be an effective tool for the provision of vision care, however the dispensing of corrective lenses is a controlled act, subject to Ontario legislation, that definitively requires a regulated health professional’s involvement. Mail order over the internet without the involvement of an optometrist or optician is inconsistent with legislation.

“The role of the colleges is to regulate the practice of optometry and opticianry to maintain and enhance public safety. The colleges do not have any bias in the dispensing of corrective lenses, or where those lenses are dispensed, as long as legislation and regulations are respected and standards are met.”

Clearly told VMAIL that it is appealing Justice Lederer’s decision. While the appeal process is underway, Clearly said it plans to continue servicing customers in Ontario.

“Clearly is committed to making vision care accessible worldwide and believes that the internet is complementary to other distribution channels,” stated Clearly managing director Arnaud Bussieres. “Clearly is well-known for accessibility, affordability, consumer satisfaction and quality of service throughout its 18 years in business.”

Clearly has “a history of engaging in dialogue with optometrists and opticians across Canada to find areas of collaboration and ways to provide better products to consumers,” the company said in a statement. “We don’t see this decision impacting our progress and ambitions of working directly with eyecare professionals to address opportunities for additional vision care access in the market,” Bussieres added.