A law banning price-fixing for contact lenses that took effect this week in Utah is a setback for the nation’s largest manufacturers that could have ripple effects across the country amid an increasingly bitter fight with discount retailers.
The new law appears to clear the way for the largest online discount seller, Utah-based 1-800 Contacts, to disregard minimum prices set by the lens makers and sell at a discount across state lines, said Steve DelBianco, executive director of the Internet sellers trade group NetChoice.
“That’s good for consumers, who pay less for their lenses when they buy from Utah suppliers,” he said in an email message. But contact lens manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb and Alcon Laboratories disagree, and the measure is still in legal limbo. They call the law an unconstitutional overreach written specifically to bolster the Utah-based 1-800 Contacts and are fighting it in court.
Utah officials, meanwhile, have been vague on whether it will allow Utah companies to sell at discounted rates to customers outside the state. 1-800 Contacts said they plan to lower their prices, but did not respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether that would apply to customers outside the state. As of Wednesday afternoon, the price for a 12-pack of the popular Acuvue Oasys brand hadn’t changed.