College response to Competition Bureau

The College of Optometrists of Ontario’s response to “Bureau encourages online competition in eyewear industry,” an article published July 26, 2018 by Competition Bureau Canada:

The College of Optometrists of Ontario and the College of Opticians of Ontario firmly believe the internet can be an effective tool for dispensing prescription eyewear, enhancing access and convenience in line with patient demands. Furthermore, the colleges agree that a free and competitive market for corrective eyewear is in the public interest and are aligned with the Competition Bureau in wanting to ensure that patients have as many options as can be safely provided for in how they access their eye care. To that end, both colleges have already established protocols for Ontario optometrists and opticians using the internet to safely care for their patients.

Our court action is focused squarely on ensuring Ontario patients receive appropriate eye health care regardless of where they purchase their corrective eyewear, be that online or at a physical retail location. There are provincial laws in place in Ontario to protect Ontarians’ eye health that require a regulated health professional’s involvement in the prescribing and dispensing of corrective lenses. Unfortunately, this is not occurring with the BC-based retailer involved in our claim, which we believe is in violation of the law and putting patients’ eye health at risk.

Rest assured, our colleges are in no way attempting to prevent online ordering or purchasing of eyewear nor will this court action halt patient access to eyewear online. There are many eyewear retailers in Ontario already using the internet to provide their patients with safe, effective, and affordable eyewear, including refills for contact lenses, in accordance with the provincial laws governing eye health care.

Our eye health is an important aspect of our overall health and well-being. Improperly fitted glasses can lead to eyestrain, double vision, and headaches. Improperly fitted contact lenses pose an even greater risk and can cause sight-threatening injury, such as corneal ulcers and infection. Children are at particular risk and often suffer from low self-esteem, frustration, poor literacy, and headaches and wearing improperly prescribed or dispensed eyewear can lead to permanent vision development issues.

As the regulators for the professions of optometry and opticianry, our role is to ensure the utmost standard of eye health care is upheld for Ontarians, and without a licensed individual involved in the process, there is no mechanism by which the colleges can ensure that any standard of care is provided at all.

As patients we expect and require health professionals to be involved in all other facets of health care, from the prescribing and dispensing of drugs to hearing aids. Why should your eye health be held to a lower standard?

Read the Competition Bureau’s article

Learn more about the December 14, 2016 injunction filed by the College of Optometrists of Ontario and the College of Opticians of Ontario against Essilor/Clearly

Learn more about Essilor/Clearly’s appeal of the injunction