Eric's Corner

Prescription Release Rules

  • Beginning in 1978, when the Federal Trade Commission action known as "Eyeglasses I " was concluded, the subject of prescription release has been widely discussed among opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. The Prescription Release Rule protects the interests of eyewear consumers by requiring eye doctors (both optometrists and ophthalmologists) to give the patient an eyeglasses prescription automatically at the conclusion of an examination (assuming the patient needs eyeglasses). The Rule was vigorously opposed by the American Optometric Association, but the Opticians Association of America fought for the Rule and in 1980, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld OAA's position and the Prescription Release Rule became law. Despite the Rule, however, many eye doctors have refused to give the patient a prescription unless the patient requested it specifically, and often the doctor has placed intimidating and unnecessary warnings or waivers of responsibility on the prescription. Many patients have been required to request the prescription in writing.

  • Violator Pays $10,000 Penalty

      Concluding the first case alleging violation of the Prescription Release Rule, a Dallas Texas optometric practice has agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to settle FTC charges that they failed to provide many patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription after an eye examination and that they unlawfully included on their prescription form a waiver of liability as to accuracy. In addition to paying the penalty, the practice is permanently barred from future violations of the prescription Release Rule and must train its employees in the Rule's requirements. The practice must also make regular reports to FTC which will monitor future compliance.

  • Prescription Defined

    A prescription as defined by the FTC Trade Regulation Rule (CFR 456) is:

      the written specifications for ophthalmic lenses which are derived from an eye examination. The prescription shall contain all of the information necessary to permit the buyer to obtain the necessary ophthalmic goods from the seller of his choice. In the case of a prescription for contact lenses, the refractionist must include in the prescription only those measurements and directions which would be included in a prescription for spectacle lenses. All prescriptions shall include all the information specified by state law, if any."

    The Prescription Release Rule mandates the release of the prescription to the patient and prohibits disclaimers or extra fees for the prescription. It is an unfair act or practice for an ophthalmologist or optometrist to:

      a. Fail to provide to the patient one copy of the patient's prescription immediately after the eye examination is completed. Provided: An ophthalmologist or optometrist may refuse to give the patient a copy of the patient's prescription until the patient has paid for the eye examination, but only if that ophthalmologist or optometrist would have required immediate payment from that patient had the examination revealed that no ophthalmic goods were required;

      b. Condition the availability of an eye examination to any person on a requirement that the patient agree to purchase any ophthalmic goods from the ophthalmologist or optometrist;

      c. Charge the patient any fee in addition to the ophthalmologists's or optometrist's examination fee as a condition to releasing the prescription to the patient. Provided: An ophthalmologist or optometrist may charge an additional fee for verifying ophthalmic goods dispensed by another seller when the additional fee is imposed at the time the verification is performed, or

      d. Place on the prescription, or require the patient to sign, or deliver to the patient, a form or notice waiving or disclaiming the liability or responsibility of the ophthalmologist or optometrist for the accuracy of the eye examination or the accuracy of the ophthalmic goods and services dispensed by another seller.

      The Opticians Association of America encourages all state societies and their members to institute programs to acquaint the public with the existence and requirements of the Prescription Release Rule. The Rule was passed to assure consumers full access to the eyewear market and its variety of eyewear providers.