Consumer News Release
For immediate release -- Tuesday, February 20, 2001.
Contact Bob Brammer -- 515-281-6699.
Bausch & Lomb to Pay $17.5 Million in Contact Lens Antitrust Case
States alleged that several companies and the American Optometric Association kept prices artificially high for replacement lenses by requiring consumers to make purchases only from eye care professionals. Bausch & Lomb will change its practices and pay $17.5 million -- including rebates to consumers -- if the court approves the settlement as expected.
Attorney General Tom Miller said today that Bausch & Lomb Inc. is settling a multi-state antitrust lawsuit that alleges the company made illegal agreements with other lens makers and the American Optometric Assn. that resulted in less choice and higher prices for replacement contact lenses.
Iowans and others who bought replacement contact lenses since 1988 will be eligible to receive up to $120 in cash rebates on future Bausch & Lomb purchases and other benefits if the court approves the settlement.
"We alleged that several lens makers and the Optometric Association entered into agreements to limit the availability of replacement lenses to certain types of eye care professionals, which resulted in less choice and higher prices for consumers," Miller said. "We alleged that consumers found it harder to purchase replacement lenses from these manufacturers through other routes such as mail orders, phone orders, the Internet, or pharmacies."
Miller said 32 states are filing a motion today for preliminary approval of the Bausch & Lomb settlement agreement by the U.S. Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville. Another defendant, CIBA Vision, settled separately with the States late last year, and trial is scheduled March 19 in Jacksonville for two remaining defendants - the American Optometric Association, and Johnson & Johnson Vision Products.
The settlement with Bausch & Lomb includes benefits for consumers, other payments by the company, and injunctive relief:
- Consumers who purchased replacement contact lenses from ANY of the defendant lens maker companies since January 1, 1988, will be eligible for a rebate and benefit package from Bausch & Lomb valued at $120, most in the form of cash rebates on future purchase of Bausch & Lomb replacement lenses. Replacement lenses sold by Bausch & Lomb, Ciba Vision or Johnson & Johnson include Acuvue®, SeeQuence®, Focus®, and NuVues®. Consumers will not need proof of purchase.
Terms and procedures for consumers remain to be approved by the court, but Miller said information already is available to consumers nationwide. The toll-free number is 1-888-707-5880.
Miller said a national advertising campaign will be used to alert consumers if the settlement is approved, as expected. He said information and links also are being posted today at his office's web site: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.
"I encourage consumers to consult these sources," Miller said, "and our office will alert consumers further on how to take advantage of the settlement when the court approves it."
- Bausch & Lomb will pay $17.5 million - at least $9.5 million worth of benefits to consumers or the settlement fund, and $8 million to the settlement fund. A portion of the $8 million will pay for the advertising campaign to tell consumers how to receive the benefits.
- Bausch & Lomb will change restrictive practices that were challenged by the Attorneys General.
"This will benefit consumers in the future by ensuring stronger competition, more choice, and lower prices for replacement lenses," Miller said.
States involved in the multi-state antitrust case are: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, ID, IL, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, OR, TX, UT, VA, WV, WI