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Feds warn retailers to stop selling illegal costume contact lenses

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is threatening businesses with huge fines over allegations of illegally selling costume contact lenses.

This month, ahead of Halloween, the FTC sent warning letters to seven retailers demanding that they stop selling contacts without prescriptions.

The agency wouldn’t say which businesses received the warning letters, but said they are “domestic brick-and-mortar” retailers.

Both corrective and cosmetic contacts are medical devices, which by law, require prescriptions.

Dr. Richard Sayegh of Koch Eye said using contacts without a prescription can cause catastrophic eye injuries.

“You can have superficial things like corneal abrasions, foreign body sensation, redness,” Sayegh explained. “But it can lead to deeper, more important things like infections, ulceration – and these things can lead to permanent vision loss.”

There are safe prescription cosmetic contacts on the market.

“It just takes a quick fit and you get it done the right way so you’re not starving your cornea of oxygen and you’re not putting your eye at risk for permanent loss,” Sayegh said.

Any retailer caught selling contacts without a prescription could face civil penalties of more than $42,000 per violation.

The FTC warnings to retailers were based on consumer complaints. Consumers can report alleged violations of the “Contact Lens Rule” here.

Susan Campbell ( is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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