Contact Lens Antitrust Class Action Lawsuit

This class action alleges that Cooper Vision, Alcon Laboratories, Bausch + Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, and ABB Optical Group violated federal and state antitrust laws through Unilateral Pricing Policies (UPPs) for disposable contact lenses.

The nationwide class for this lawsuit includes all persons in the US who purchased disposable contact lenses manufactured by Alcon Laboratories, Bausch + Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, and Cooper Vision, where the prices for the contacts were set via  Unilateral Pricing Policy. There are also Maryland and California subclasses. The class period is from June 1, 2013 to the present.

Evidence given at a Senate Hearing shows that nearly 39 million Americans wear contact lenses, spending approximately $4.2 billion dollars per year on these products. Approximately 90% of these contact lenses are the disposable type which are replaced on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. 

According to testimony given at the Senate Hearing, four of the defendants in this case—Cooper Vision, Alcon Laboratories, Bausch + Lomb, and Johnson & Johnson—together control 97% of the US contact lens market. The fifth, the ABB Optical Group, is the largest distributor of contact lenses in the US; more than two-thirds of eye care professionals (ECPs) buy lenses from ABB.

The FDA considers disposable contact lenses to be Class II or Class III devices, which may be purchased only with a prescription from an ECP. Prescriptions include not only the type and power of the lenses, but also the particular brand of contact required.

The complaint says that ECPs thus may prescribe whichever lenses provide them with the largest profit margins and may refuse to prescribe a manufacturer’s lenses if their profit margins are undercut by more efficient retailers. Thus the manufacturers have an interest in seeing that ECP prices for their lenses are not undercut.

The complaint alleges that ECPs and contact manufacturers have tried to limit price competition from mass merchandisers (like “big box” stores) and Internet retailers. It claims and that all four manufacturers conspired with each other as well as with wholesaler ABB to impose minimum retail prices on certain contact lens lines and to forbid selling these products at a discount.

Over fifteen months, beginning in June 2013, the complaint alleges, the four manufacturers set in place a UPP consisting of minimum resale price maintenance requirements. It claims that these were not “unilateral” pricing policies but the result of an agreement to limit price competition reached only after extensive consultation with independent ECPs and the ABB. The complaint also cites a 1996 lawsuit (eventually settled) that claimed that manufacturers had conspired with ECPs to restrict the supply of contact lenses to alternative sources of distribution such as mail-order houses.

The class action thus alleges that the manufacturers and distributor have violated the Sherman Act as well as state antitrust and unfair competition laws.

 

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Antitrust

Most Recent Case Event

First lawsuit alleging price fixing in the disposable contact lens market

March 3, 2015

The complaint alleges an industry wide conspiracy to set price ceiling for disposable contact lenses.  This means the cheaper lenses you could buy at Walmart or online are no longer available to you.

contact_lens_complaint.pdf

Case Event History

First lawsuit alleging price fixing in the disposable contact lens market

March 3, 2015

The complaint alleges an industry wide conspiracy to set price ceiling for disposable contact lenses.  This means the cheaper lenses you could buy at Walmart or online are no longer available to you.

contact_lens_complaint.pdf
Tags: Collusion & Price Fixing