Hubble contact lens maker Vision Path will pay the Federal Trade Commission $3.5 million to settle charges for the company failing to take customers’ prescriptions or verifying their prescription information correctly, and replacing what’s actually been prescribed to consumers with Hubble lenses.
The company’s practices violated the F.TC. rules for selling contact lenses, The commission said on Friday. The FTC also said that in yet another violation of its rules, many of Hubble’s online reviews were written by people who received compensation, including one of its own managers in at least one instance.
Settlement comes later An investigation by The New York Times in 2019 Detailed critique of Hubble by optometrists and ophthalmologists. They said the brand’s direct-to-consumer model bypassed eye care professionals, didn’t properly review prescriptions, and leveraged federal regulations to sell their brand of contact lenses to customers. Industry experts told The Times that Hubble is turning people off of prescription lens brands and into Hubble’s lenses, which could harm customers.
Vision Path and Hubble have sought to disrupt the contact lens industry by offering low-cost everyday lenses with subscriptions of $39 per month. The company, which has raised more than $70 million in funding from startups and companies like Colgate-Palmolive, has marketed itself heavily via social media and has sought to emulate the success of other direct-to-consumer companies like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.
But contact lenses are often worn, prescribed, and sold by optometrists, who often specify brands from major manufacturers such as Acuvue Oasys or Biofinity Toric on prescriptions. Companies must obtain a copy of a consumer prescription or verify their information with a prescriber before selling lenses.
Until the FTC begins its investigation, Hubble said it does not ask consumers for copies of their contact lens prescriptions and will generally not allow customers to provide their prescriptions on its website. According to the FTC, this “made Hubble unable to get customers’ prescriptions and therefore pretended to be unaware that these consumers had prescriptions for non-Hubble lenses.” According to the FTC, the company has sometimes failed to take the necessary steps to verify customer-provided prescription information, making it difficult or impossible for prescribers to verify prescriptions.
“Hubble’s business model has increased its profitability but created unnecessary risk to its customers’ eye health,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the publication.
Vision Path said Friday that it disagrees with many of the FTC’s claims, but believes a deal is the best way forward for Hubble to move forward.
“The FTC’s claims relate to a time when the company was newly founded and all requirements on the order were addressed through improvements made to our systems and internal processes a long time ago,” said Steven Druckman, CEO of Vision Path.