May 7, 2018
AUSTIN, TX – Following an exhaustive investigation, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Consumer Protection Division today announced that it secured Assurances of Voluntary Compliance with 37 store owners and wholesale distribution companies to stop selling unlawful and potentially dangerous contact lenses in Texas. The businesses have made refunds available to consumers and will pay more than $140,000 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees to the state of Texas.
Attorney General Paxton’s office began its investigation in March 2016 after undercover sweeps by the San Antonio Police Department turned up more than two dozen stores selling contact lenses without requiring consumers to provide a prescription – violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Optometry Act.
Information provided by retailers led to subsequent investigations by the attorney general’s office into the distributors of the contact lenses. Ten companies – located primarily in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas – marketed the lenses to novelty shops, corner stores and gas stations, even though retailers could not legally sell them without a prescription.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 41 million Americans wear contact lenses. The risks of using illegal non-prescription lenses include blindness, infections, allergic reactions and even the loss of an eye.
“My office’s contact lens sweep is a reminder to Texans to safeguard their vision by using only contact lenses prescribed for them by a licensed practitioner,” Attorney General Paxton said. “We will continue to take appropriate action against retailers and businesses that endanger consumers by selling unlawful lenses. We strongly urge anyone who has found retailers selling lenses without a prescription to contact our office.”
Before buying contact lenses, the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division recommends the following precautions:
Always visit a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist for proper fitting of contact lenses.
Never buy contact lenses without a prescription; Texas law does not exempt cosmetic lenses from the prescription requirement.
Buy contact lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription, whether you purchase in person or online.
Avoid buying lenses from street vendors, convenience and dollar stores, flea markets and novelty stores.
The Consumer Protection Division also receives and reviews complaints submitted to the office by consumers. While the attorney general is prohibited from representing such individuals, these complaints are used by the office to help shape priorities and identify issues affecting Texans. Consumers can file complaints by visiting: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint