California Prohibition: Optical One Stop Shopping

California Prohibition: Optical One Stop Shopping

Federal Appellate Court Upholds California Prohibition on Optical One Stop Shopping

On June 13, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in a long-standing dispute over the validity of a California law that prohibit opticians and other optical stores from selling prescription eyewear and providing eye examinations at the same location, from advertising that prescription eyewear and exams are available in the same location, and from employing optometrists or ophthalmologists on the premises. In contrast, optometrist and ophthalmologists can provide optical one stop shopping.

Because the law was affirmed, the status quo remains. So, The Vision Council members should not see any change at this time in how eyeglasses are dispensed in California.

The case was brought by Luxottica Group's LensCrafters chain, Highmark's Eye Care Centers of America Inc., and the National Association of Optometrists and Opticians, which challenged the prohibition on one stop optical shopping by arguing that it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commerce Clause disallows a law or regulation that is either discriminatory or substantially burdens interstate commerce. In 2006, a California District Court judge found that the prohibition on one stop shopping was discriminatory, but he was reversed by the Court of Appeals in 2009, which held that there was no discrimination. The case was then sent back to the District Court judge for him to decide whether the one stop shopping prohibition was unduly burdensome on U.S. commerce even if it did not discriminate; he held that it was not burdensome enough to violate the Commerce Clause.

In its June 13 decision, the Court of Appeals agreed, deciding that the prohibition on one stop shopping was valid and not unduly burdensome. The Court noted that the Commerce Clause does not guarantee a preferred method of operation, or who gets market share and thus profits, but is meant to regulate the flow of goods. The Court, noting that any optometrist, optician or ophthalmologist was free to import complete eyewear originating anywhere into California and sell it there, held no substantial burden on interstate commerce existed. The parties challenging the laws now have the option of petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States, asking for review of the case. We will continue to monitor this to see if the high court takes up the issue.

If anyone has further questions regarding this court case or other issues, please email The Vision Council's Regulatory Counsel, Rick Van Arnam at rvanarnam@barnesrichardson.com.