Hubble contact lens maker pays $3.5 million in FTC settlement

Vision Path, the maker of Hubble contact lenses, will pay $3.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company failed to obtain prescriptions from customers or properly verify prescription information and that it sold Hubble lenses. replaced by the lenses actually prescribed to consumers.

The company’s practices violated F.TC. rules around the sale of contact lenses, the committee said in a release on Friday. The FTC also said that, in another violation of its rules, many of Hubble’s online reviews were written by people who had been compensated, including in at least one case one of its own executives.

A 2019 New York Times study detailed critique of Hubble by optometrists and ophthalmologists. They said the brand’s direct-to-consumer model bypassed eye care professionals, failed to read regulations properly, and took advantage of federal regulations to sell customers its own brand of contact lenses. Industry professionals told The Times that Hubble was switching people from their prescription lens brands to Hubble’s lenses, which could harm customers.

Vision Path and Hubble tried to disrupt the contact lens industry by offering a range of low-cost daily contact lenses through $39 monthly subscriptions. The company, which raised more than $70 million in funding from venture capital firms and companies like Colgate-Palmolive, advertised heavily through social media. media and tried to emulate the success of other direct-to-consumer companies such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.

But contact lenses are usually fitted, prescribed and sold by optometrists, who often specify brands from major manufacturers such as Acuvue Oasys or Biofinity Toric in prescriptions. Before selling lenses, companies must obtain a copy of a consumer’s prescription or verify the consumer’s information with a prescriber.

The FTC said that until it began the investigation, Hubble had not asked consumers for copies of their contact lens prescriptions and typically did not allow customers to provide their prescriptions on its website. This, according to the FTC, “prevented Hubble from receiving prescriptions from customers and thus pretending not to know that these consumers had prescriptions for non-Hubble lenses.” The company sometimes failed to make required attempts to verify customer-provided prescription information or made it difficult or impossible for prescribers to verify prescriptions, according to the FTC

“Hubble’s business model drove profits, but created an unnecessary risk to its customers’ eye health,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the press release. Vision Path said Monday it “strongly” disputes Mr. Levine’s statement, noting that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the products it sells.

On Friday, the company released a statement saying it disagreed with many of the FTC’s claims, but believed a settlement was the best way for Hubble to move forward.

“The FTC’s allegations relate to a time when the company was just getting started, and all of the requirements in the order were addressed long ago through improvements to our systems and internal processes,” said Steven Druckman, the CEO of Vision Path.

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