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 replaced Hubble lenses with those actually prescribed to consumers.
The company’s practices violated F.TC. rules concerning the sale of contact lenses, the commission said in a statement on Friday. The FTC also said that, in another violation of its rules, many of Hubble’s online reviews were written by people who were compensated, including in at least one case one of its own executives.
A New York Times investigation in 2019 detailed criticism of Hubble by optometrists and ophthalmologists. They said the brand’s direct-to-consumer model bypasses eye care professionals, fails to properly check prescriptions, and takes advantage of federal regulations to sell customers its own brand of contact lenses. . Industry professionals told The Times that Hubble replaced people with their prescription lens brands with Hubble lenses, which could be harmful to customers.
Vision Path and Hubble have sought to disrupt the contact lens industry by offering a line of low-cost daily lenses via $39 monthly subscriptions. The company, which has raised more than $70 million in funding from venture capital firms and companies such as Colgate-Palmolive, has marketed itself heavily via social media and sought to emulate the success of others. direct-to-consumer companies like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.
But contact lenses are typically fitted, prescribed, and sold by optometrists, who often specify brands from major manufacturers like Acuvue Oasys or Biofinity Toric in prescriptions. Before selling lenses, companies must obtain a copy of the consumer’s prescription or verify the consumer’s information with a prescriber.
The FTC said that until it began its investigation, Hubble had not asked consumers for copies of their contact lens prescriptions and generally did not allow customers to provide their prescriptions on its website. This, according to the FTC, “ensured that Hubble could not receive prescriptions from customers and therefore could act as if it was unaware that those consumers had prescriptions for non-Hubble glasses.” The company sometimes failed to make required attempts to verify prescription information provided by the customer or made it difficult or impossible for prescribers to verify prescriptions, according to the FTC.
“Hubble’s business model has boosted its earnings but created an unnecessary risk to the eye health of its customers,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, said in the statement. Vision Path said Monday it “strongly” disputes Mr. Levine’s statement, noting that the Food and Drug Administration has licensed the products it sells.
The company released a statement on Friday saying it disagreed with many of the FTC’s assertions, but believed a settlement was the best way for Hubble to move forward.
“The FTC’s allegations relate to a period when the business was just getting started, and all order requirements were addressed long ago through improvements to our internal systems and processes,” said Steven Druckman, director General of Vision Path.