SEATTLE—Nouveau Vision, an independent wholesale laboratory in Redmond, Washington, has filed a class action lawsuit against Transitions Optical, Essilor of America and Essilor Laboratories of America (ELOA), alleging that the three companies violated federal antitrust laws.

The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, claims that the companies violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by engaging in a "longstanding conspiracy to monopolize the market for the development, manufacturer and sale of photochromic treatments for corrective ophthalmic lenses," according to court documents.

In the suit, Nouveau Vision alleges that from 1999 to early March 2010, Transitions Optical, Essilor of America and ELOA engaged in "unfair methods of competition that foreclosed key distribution channels for existing rivals and impeded market entry by potential rivals into the market for photochromic treatments." Documents filed with the court also charge that "Defendants and their co-conspirators engaged in acts and practices that collectively had the effect of improperly maintaining Transitions' monopoly power and unreasonably restraining trade in that market."

Transitions Optical, based in Pinellas Park, Fla., is the leading producer of photochromic lenses. The company is co-owned by PPG Industries and Essilor.

The class action suit comes a month after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement with Transitions Optical that bars Transitions Optical from using allegedly anticompetitive practices to maintain its monopoly and increase prices on photochromic lenses. The settlement was accompanied by a "consent agreement" between the FTC and Transitions Optical that includes restrictions on exclusive or preferred customer relationships. Transitions Optical has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

Commenting on the class action lawsuit, Tim Sutich, owner and president of Nouveau Vision, told VMail, "With this lawsuit, we're saying 'enough is enough.'"

Responding to questions from VMail about Nouveau Vision's action, a Transitions Optical spokesperson said, "It's not unusual for lawsuits like this to be attempted after consent agreements like ours are filed with the FTC. We remain confident about our company and our business practices and feel that we have always done what is right for the success of all our customers and partners. The continued support we receive from our customers and partners shows, more than anything, that we are working in the best interest of the optical industry overall."

An Essilor spokesperson said in response to the VMail's query, "Essilor generally does not comment on on-going litigation. However, it is Essilor's practice to fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations."

The class action suit against Transitions Optical, Essilor of America and ELOA is not the first time Nouveau Vision has taken formal action against large optical industry companies for alleged antitrust violations. In September, 2009, the wholesaler filed a formal complaint, as reported by VMail, with Washington state insurance and law enforcement officials and the FTC against managed vision care giant VSP and Essilor.