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Contact-Lens Maker Agrees to Rebates

May 13, 1997|From Associated Press

At least 20 million people who buy disposable contact lenses will be eligible for a $35 rebate under a nationwide settlement announced Monday between CIBA Vision Corp. and 26 states, including California.

The agreement settles civil complaints that CIBA Vision unlawfully limited the sale of its contact lenses through discount outlets, driving up prices.

Florida filed a federal lawsuit in 1994 against CIBA Vision and the nation's other top lens makers, Johnson & Johnson and Bausch & Lomb Inc. Suits against those companies, as well as several optometrists and professional associations, are pending.

Consumers nationwide are eligible for the rebate because a national class-action suit was later added to the Florida case, and 25 other states filed a similar lawsuit in New York in December.

In the last decade, at least 20 million consumers around the nation paid an estimated $135 million more for contact lenses from the three manufacturers, California Deputy Atty. Gen. Tom Dove said.

That worked out to individual consumers paying an additional $1 to $3 for a pack of six lenses.

Under the settlement, consumers can get cash rebates of $35 and coupons worth an additional $8.

Former customers who buy four multipacks of CIBA Vision, Vistakon or Bausch & Lomb lenses will be eligible for a rebate. A multipack typically provides six lenses and sells for anywhere from $60 to $200.

"This agreement compensates consumers for CIBA's past marketing practices while ensuring that consumers will have more choices when buying lenses in the future," Florida Atty. Gen. Bob Butterworth said.

CIBA Vision, which did not admit to wrongdoing, also has agreed to pay $5 million to cover attorney fees and be distributed as determined by U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger.

In a statement from its Atlanta headquarters, CIBA Vision, a unit of Swiss drug maker Novartis, said it settled because legal costs would have outweighed the cost of the settlement.

The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge in Jacksonville, Fla., was presented Friday to Schlesinger, who also will rule on a plan to notify customers through newspaper ads.

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