Spitzer Announces $17.5 Million National Settlement With Bausch And Lomb
Attorney General Spitzer today announced that as many as one million New Yorkers who purchased replacement contact lenses since 1988 will be eligible to receive rebates and discounts of up to $120 in an antitrust settlement with Bausch & Lomb, a major manufacturer of contact lenses and eye care products.
The settlement resolves antitrust claims filed against Bausch & Lomb, by New York and 31 other states and a consumer class. Bausch & Lomb is the second contact lens manufacturer to reach an agreement with the plaintiffs. CIBA Vision recently agreed to settle similar charges and to pay more than $6 million. The two remaining defendants are Johnson & Johnson Vision Products and the American Optometric Association.
The lawsuit alleged that optometrists, acting through their trade association, conspired with lens manufacturers to restrain competition in the sale of replacement disposable contact lenses by refusing to make such lenses available to pharmacies and mail order firms. Because replacement disposable lenses, unlike other contact lenses, do not need to be individually viewed on consumers' eyes by an eye care practitioner, pharmacies and mail order firms can provide consumers with a less expensive and more convenient way to purchase replacement disposable contact lenses.
"This settlement makes Bausch & Lomb lenses available to consumers through additional distribution channels," said Spitzer. "Pharmacies and mail order firms provide significant price competition for these lenses, which is of great benefit to consumers."
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Bausch & Lomb will pay $8 million into a settlement fund and will provide injured consumers with a package of goods and services worth $9.5 million. Bausch & Lomb has also agreed to sell its lenses to pharmacies and mail order companies on a non-discriminatory basis.
The $9.5 million benefits package requires Bausch & Lomb to pay to any New York consumer who purchased contact lenses from Bausch & Lomb, or from Johnson & Johnson or CIBA Vision:
- a $50 rebate on the purchase of 4 multi-packs of Bausch & Lomb disposable lenses;
- a $25 rebate on the purchase of 4 additional multi-packs;
- a $25 rebate on an eye examination (with proof of purchase of any Bausch & Lomb lenses); and
- additional coupons and product samples of Bausch & Lomb eye care products.
After the costs of informing consumers about the settlement and the cost of the litigation have been paid, any remaining money from the $8 million settlement fund can be distributed to consumers in a second round of rebates or discounts, upon court approval, Spitzer said. Bausch & Lomb has also agreed that any unclaimed amount from the $9.5 million benefits package will be paid into the settlement fund. The settlement is subject to federal court approval.
The trial against the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, on March 19, 2001.
Eligible consumers can register for the Bausch & Lomb benefits package by telephone (1-888-707-5880), online (www.freecontactlensrebates.com) or by mail (Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 9399, Garden City, N.Y. 11530-9399).
The case is being handled by Robert Hubbard of the Attorney General's Antitrust Bureau, under the direction of Bureau Chief Harry First. Hubbard serves as the Chair of the Plaintiff States' Steering Committee on the case.