SECOND CONTACT LENS MANUFACTURER SETTLES
Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that residents of Maryland who have bought replacement contact lenses are eligible to receive a cash rebate on a future purchase and a product benefit package from Bausch & Lomb, Inc. under a proposed settlement with the contact lens manufacturer. The settlement resolves antitrust claims that were filed against Bausch & Lomb by Maryland, 31 other states, and a private consumer class. The benefit package each consumer will receive is valued at $120.
Maryland citizens who purchased replacement contact lenses from Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc., or CIBA Vision at any time since January 1, 1988, are eligible to receive the rebate and benefit package. Acuvue®, SeeQuence®, Focus®, and NuVues® are among the popular replacement lenses sold by these manufacturers. The rebate is for eye exams and future purchases of Bausch & Lomb lenses.
Bausch & Lomb has guaranteed that it will distribute at least $9.5 million worth of benefit packages to consumers, or deposit the difference between what was distributed and the $9.5 million into a settlement fund.
In addition to offering consumers the benefit package, Bausch & Lomb has also agreed to pay $8 million to the settlement fund and to change its current policy barring sales of its lenses to pharmacies and mail order firms. The settlement fund will be used to pay for widespread newspaper ads about the settlement, the cost of the litigation and charitable distributions. The newspaper ads will list a toll-free number and a website address which will tell consumers how to register for the rebate and benefits package.
Attorney General Curran, along with the attorneys general of 31 other states, filed suit against Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc., the American Optometric Association and CIBA Vision for violating antitrust laws. CIBA Vision previously settled with the states in a separate settlement agreement.
The lawsuits allege that replacement contact lenses were priced at artificially high levels after Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc., Bausch & Lomb and CIBA Vision agreed with certain optometrists and the American Optometric Association that consumers could only purchase replacement lenses from eye care professionals. Consumers found it more difficult to purchase replacement lenses made by these manufacturers through other outlets such as mail or phone order, the Internet, and pharmacies, according to the lawsuits. The lawsuits also allege that consumers had to pay higher prices for these lenses. An estimated one in 10 Americans wear contact lenses.
"This settlement directly benefits consumers, who will no longer be forced to pay higher prices for their replacement lenses. Consumers will also find it easier to purchase these lenses in the future," Attorney General Curran said.
Attorney General Curran said that his office is proceeding with the lawsuit against the other defendants, Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc., and the American Optometric Association, who are still causing customers to pay higher replacement contact lens prices. Trial against these remaining defendants begins March 19, 2001 in Jacksonville, Florida.
"We want to stop these unlawful, restrictive policies," Curran said. "My office is committed to investigating and suing companies who make unlawful agreements that harm Maryland consumers."