The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with an Internet marketer and his company that will put a stop to their alleged illegal practice of selling cosmetic contact lenses to consumers without prescriptions.
The settlement with Scott Smiledge-Ferragamo and Jokeshop USA, LLC is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to help protect consumers from the health risks posed by improperly used contact lenses, through its enforcement of the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule. The Rule requires sellers to verify that a consumer has a valid prescription for all contact lenses, including cosmetic lenses that do not correct vision. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the improper use of contact lenses, whether they are corrective or not, can cause corneal ulcers, corneal abrasions, vision impairment, and blindness. The settlement with the Jokeshop defendants is the FTC’s seventh enforcement action since it issued the Contact Lens Rule in 2004.
Smiledge-Ferragamo sold cosmetic contact lenses through his Massachusetts-based company, Jokeshop, and the website www.vampfangs.com. The FTC charged that Smiledge-Ferragamo and Jokeshop violated federal law by selling contact lenses without getting consumers’ contact lens prescriptions or verifying their prescriptions directly with the prescribers, and by failing to keep adequate records.
The settlement order also prohibits the defendants from selling contact lenses without obtaining or verifying prescriptions directly from the prescribers, from failing to maintain records of prescriptions and verifications, and from violating the Contact Lens Rule. The settlement requires the defendants to pay $50,000 in cash plus the proceeds from the sale of a 2009 Mercedes. The rest of the $200,000 judgment against the defendants will be suspended because of their inability to pay. If it is determined that the financial information the defendants gave the FTC was untruthful, the full amount of the judgment will become due. The settlement also contains various record keeping provisions to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.
The FTC’s guidance to sellers on their obligations under the Contact Lens Rule includes “The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers," and "Complying with the Contact Lens Rule .” Consumers can learn more about cosmetic contact lenses in “Avoiding an Eyesore: What to Know Before You Buy Cosmetic Contacts ,” and about their rights under federal law in “The Eyes Have It – Get Your Prescription .”
The U.S. Department of Justice filed these documents on the FTC’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on July 12, 2011. The Commission vote to refer the complaint and settlement order to the DOJ for filing was 5-0.
NOTE: The Commission refers a complaint to the DOJ for filing when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. A consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A consent decree is subject to court approval and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
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(FTC File No. 102-3009)