If you’ve worn glasses or contact lenses for a long time, you know the dance. You visit an optometrist for a new prescription. And then they want you to order from their optical shop. The optometrist doesn’t know if you’re on a budget, or prefer to shop with a particular brand, or just want the damn eye circles to come to you in the mail every three months.
So then you have to (deep breath) ask for your prescription.
But hold on a minute. The old days are gone. You don’t have to do the dance anymore.
It’s all thanks to a Federal Trade Commission rule covering glasses and contact lens wearers. The rule itself isn’t new, but it was recently updated to make it even easier for you to get information about your own eye health—and then take it wherever you want to shop.
Since 2004, eye doctors have been legally required to give you a copy of your contact lens or glasses prescription. They have to give it to you automatically once they fit you for contacts, without you asking. They are also required to give that prescription to third parties that request it (like another optical shop or online contact lens store). If you give a third party permission to ask your prescriber for your prescription details, the provider has 40 business hours to respond with the info.
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The FTC’s update to the rule allows you to receive your contact lens prescription information in a digital format that allows you to download or print it. In addition, it requires that you sign a confirmation statement that you got your prescription and sign a copy of the prescription that your prescriber will keep on hand, which also contains a statement that you received a copy. You’ll also need a sign a receipt for your office visit that confirms you got a copy of your prescription.
It’s a lot of signatures, sure. But the FTC’s rules for contact lenses and glasses were made with comparison shopping in mind. If you have your prescription in hand (or, say, on your phone), you can choose convenience, price or style at your leisure, without a hard sell from the office that prescribed your contacts or glasses.
The updated FTC rule will go into effect in the fall. So, the next time you get an eye exam, pay attention to how your final prescription is handled. The FTC points out that it’s illegal for your prescriber to make you request your original prescription, pay a fee for a copy of that prescription or buy glasses or contact lenses at their facility.
In addition, they can’t make you sign a waiver or release that would prevent you from getting your prescription information.