Spitzer Announces $5 Million Agreement With Contact Lens Manufacturer In Antitrust Violation Case

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that more than one million New Yorkers who bought replacement contact lenses made by CIBA Vision will be eligible to receive a rebate and product benefit under a proposed partial settlement of an antitrust lawsuit filed by New York and 31 other states.

Under the proposed settlement, U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger has approved the states' request to extend notice of the proposed settlement to consumers so that they may consider the proposal. CIBA Vision has agreed to give customers a $35 rebate on the purchase of certain replacement lenses and to provide a package of coupons for CIBA Vision products. CIBA Vision will pay $5 million in costs and penalties, a portion of which will include a statewide newspaper advertising campaign beginning tomorrow to alert consumers about the settlement and how to receive the benefits.

New York is one of the lead states in the lawsuit, which alleges that CIBA Vision, Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc. (Vistakon) and the American Optometric Association colluded to artificially inflate the prices of contact lenses by providing them only through eye care professionals and not other outlets such as mail or phone order, the Internet, pharmacies and drug stores. CIBA is the only manufacturer participating in the settlement. As many as 25 million consumers in the 31 states may be eligible for the rebate.

Spitzer said his office is proceeding with the lawsuit against the other defendants, Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc., and the American Optometric Association.

"This partial settlement will go a long way toward ensuring that New Yorkers are able to get the best possible deal for contact lenses," Attorney General Spitzer said. "My office remains committed to protecting consumers from artificially high prices."

New Yorkers who purchased replacement contact lenses from CIBA Vision at any time since January 1, 1988 are eligible to receive the rebate and discount package.

CIBA has also agreed to provide the same benefits to consumers who purchased replacement lenses during the same time from the other defendants in the case: Bausch & Lomb and Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc. Among the popular replacement lenses sold by these manufacturers are Acuvue, SeeQuence, Focus and NuVues.

Consumers seeking further information on the case, or wishing to register for the benefits package, can log on to www.contactlenssettlement.com or call toll free 1-888-811-0385. The deadline for opt out, objection or registration is January 31, 2001.

The court will hold a hearing on February 27, 2001 to determine whether the proposed settlement will receive final approval. Trial of the case against Bausch & Lomb and Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, Inc. is scheduled to begin on March 19, 2001.

The case was handled by Robert Hubbard of the Attorney General's Antitrust Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Harry First.

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