Consumer Rights When Buying Prescription Glasses

Consumer Rights When Buying Prescription Glasses 1

What are your rights when purchasing prescription glasses or contact lenses?

The importance of maintaining eye health and monitoring your vision cannot be overstated. No matter whether you request it or not, your eye care professional must give you a copy of your prescription anytime your prescription is measured for eyeglasses or contact lenses (an exam called a refraction). With your prescription, you have the option of shopping around for the best deal, regardless of where you choose to purchase your glasses or contact lenses.

Prescription Rights

If you request a copy of your prescription, your eye care professional will provide it to you. It is lawful for them to provide you a copy of the prescription immediately after a refraction is performed and before offering you eyeglasses. When you receive contact lenses, they must provide you with a copy after the fitting has been completed (which may require two visits).

Your eye care professional can provide you with a prescription

  • You cannot be charged an additional fee

  • You may not be forced to purchase eyeglasses or contact lenses

  • You cannot be asked to sign a waiver or release

Here is what you need to know:

  • Having a copy of your prescription allows you to buy glasses or contacts elsewhere if you wish. You do not have to purchase glasses or contact lenses from your eye care professional.

  • Your eye care professional has 40 business hours to send you a copy of your contact lens prescription if you require another copy. If a business has your permission to obtain a copy of your prescription, your eye care professional has the right to provide it to them.

  • The eye exam and contact lens fitting will likely be charged separately by your eye care professional. In the event that the eye care professional requires immediate payment from all patients prior to providing you with a copy of your prescription, they can only require that you pay for your exam, contact lens fitting, or evaluation before providing you with a copy of your prescription. Many insurance policies do not cover contact lens fitting fees, but proof of insurance counts as payment for eye examination fees.

  • You may be charged by your eye care professional for a pupillary distance measurement in some states. A pupillary distance measurement will be required to purchase glasses online in some states. Many states do not require eye care professionals to include pupillary distances on prescriptions.

  • In spite of HIPAA, an eye care professional can still provide your prescriptions. HIPAA protects the privacy of your medical information. However, your eye care professional can provide your prescription to a business with your permission.

Purchasing contact lenses

You must receive a copy of your prescription when your eye care professional completes your fitting. You should also sign a document confirming that you have received the prescription.

Here are some things you should know:

  • A contact lens fitting may require more than one appointment. Your prescriber may ask you to wear the lenses for a few days if you are wearing contact lenses for the first time, or if you are trying a new brand or type. Following an in-person follow-up appointment, they will evaluate the lenses for fit. You may be asked some additional questions by your prescriber to determine if the lenses will work for you by calling or by virtual video appointment. When this is the case, the fitting cannot be completed until the second appointment, whether it is in person, over the telephone, or via videoconference.

A prescriber may be able to finalize your contact lens prescription at the end of the initial appointment if there is no change in the prescription. At that point, the prescriber is required to give your prescription at that time.

  • A prescription should be automatically generated by your prescriber if the prescriber is willing to sell you lenses. If you do not purchase lenses from your prescriber, your prescription should not be automatically generated.

  • It is your right to receive a paper copy of your contact lens prescription, however, if you wish to receive an electronic copy, you must consent to that in writing or by electronic means. The prescription must also be delivered to you in a specific manner (email, portal, or text). It must be accessible, downloadable, and printable if you receive your prescription electronically.

  • It is required that your contact lens prescription includes the following information

    • The name of the individual

    • Your exam date

    • The date on which your prescription was issued and the date on which it expires

    • An eye care professional’s name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number

    • The prescription lens’ power, material, and/or manufacturer

    • An appropriate designation for the lens’ base curve

    • When applicable, the diameter of the lens

    • Please include the name of the manufacturer, the brand name and the name of any identical lenses from the same manufacturer, if applicable, if you wear private label brand or store brand contacts (often sold by large eye care practices or optical chains).

In addition, contact lens wearers should be aware of the following:

  • The brand of eyeglasses you wish to purchase must be approved by your eye care professional if you wish to buy one other than the one stated on your prescription.

  • As long as the manufacturer offers a brand name and a generic or store brand version of the same lens, you do not need your eye care professional’s approval to switch brands.

  • The eye care professional should ask you to sign a form confirming that the prescription has been provided to you.

Purchasing cosmetic contact lenses

The use of cosmetic contact lenses that alter only the appearance of the wearer requires a prescription.

You should also know the following:

  • The sale of cosmetic lenses by businesses that do not obtain or verify your prescription is illegal. The business should ask for a copy of your prescription or contact your eye care professional for your prescription information.

  • You should visit an eye care professional if you are considering purchasing cosmetic contacts. You must purchase contacts only from sellers that require a prescription or who will verify the prescription information with your eye care professional in order to maintain good vision.

  • It is important to note that unless you are properly fitted, contact lenses, such as cat eye lenses or lenses that change your eye color, can harm your eyes. Before wearing contact lenses, you should have your eyes examined by a qualified eye care professional and have a contact lens fitting performed. Otherwise, you may suffer serious injuries or complications, including

    • Pain or discomfort in the eyes

    • Swollen or red eyes

    • Reduced or blurred vision

    • Cuts or scratches to the cornea (top layer of the eye)

    • Eye allergies (itchiness, watering, or redness)

    • Affection

    • Seeing things blindly

How to Use Your Prescription

  • A copy of your prescription should be given to the seller if you intend to purchase glasses or contacts from someone other than your eye care professional. Then you will be able to be assured that the seller has the correct information. It should be explained to you how to submit or upload a copy of your prescription to the online seller.

  • If you do not provide the seller with your actual contact lens prescription, you will need to provide them with information about it — for example, the brand and manufacturer of the recommended contacts, their power, base curve, or diameter. In addition, you will need to provide the seller with information regarding how to contact your eye care professional to request a verification of your contact lens prescription. It is especially important to provide the seller with accurate contact lens information. The seller is able to sell you those lenses if you do not respond within eight business hours to the seller’s request. However, you may end up with a different pair of lenses than the one you originally purchased.

  • Take a picture of your prescription and save it on your phone or computer. Even if you are not planning to purchase glasses or contacts anytime soon, you should keep a copy of it in a safe place.

  • Prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses expire according to state law. Eyeglass prescriptions are usually valid for a period of one to two years, but state laws may differ. If your eye care professional has a medical reason to shorten the life of your contact lens prescription, it must be valid for at least a year. Do not purchase glasses or contact lenses with expired prescriptions. Having regular comprehensive eye examinations is important because your eye health changes over time.

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