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Eye On Boise

House panel sides with online contact lens seller over manufacturers, approves bill

An online retailer of contact lenses battled major manufacturers of the lenses in an Idaho House committee today, and the retailer won, the AP reports, as the House Health & Welfare Committee approved HB 149 and sent it to the full House for a vote. Representatives of 1-800 Contacts told the lawmakers that a new pricing strategy being followed by the nation’s major contact lens manufacturers is cutting off retailers who don’t observe a set minimum price; they said that’s making consumers pay more, while manufacturers told the committee the strategy has actually reduced contact lens prices and has made it more convenient for consumers to purchase their products.

Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, who introduced the legislation, said that unlike electronics or cellphones, people often don't have a choice of what brand to use when prescribed contacts. Instead, consumers can only use the prescription given by their doctor. “We're going to let the market decide the price," she said.

The committee sided with the online retailer. "I think having this (pricing strategy) is not helpful to our consumers in Idaho," said Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa. "And if manufacturers stop selling in Idaho because of this legislation, I think we'll have grounds for an anti-trust case."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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