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Montana senators should fight for consumer choice

(Jon Knokey) – As a state representative, I have a responsibility to protect my constituents’ consumer rights from unfair business practices. Government should ensure an even playing field for its citizens; an arena where perseverance and hard work is rewarded, where competition flourishes.

Unfortunately, forces in Washington are attempting to use the federal appropriations process to limit retail options for some 41 million contact lens consumers. Special interests are trying to change a Federal Trade Commission contact lens rule to tilt the balance away from consumer interests, competition and customer choice and unfairly benefit those who seek to sell more contact lenses directly to their patients.

Recognizing the unique nature of the contact lens market, in which eye care providers write prescriptions and fill them, Congress passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA). This law requires eye care providers to automatically provide patients with contact lens prescriptions, ensuring consumers are free to purchase contacts wherever they’d like, based on price and convenience. By maintaining choice, the law boosts innovation and drives down costs. Free market always wins.

It has become clear, however, that some eye care providers are flouting legal obligations under FCLCA. A survey by Consumer Action, conducted this year, found that nearly one-third of respondents were not given a copy of their prescription, as the law requires, and 60 percent were unaware of their right to receive their prescription. This noncompliance impedes a well-functioning contact lens marketplace, harms consumers and inhibits our fundamental rights.

Bozemanites deserve the right to be able to buy goods wherever they want from whomever they want. As champions for the Montana consumer, we should urge Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester to fight back the special interests in Washington to guarantee that our freedom of consumer choice is not infringed.

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