SAN FRANCISCO — Pearle Vision, a unit of No. 1 eyewear maker Luxottica, violated a California law that prohibits retailers from having financial control over eye doctors, the California Supreme Court ruled.
Pearle Vision's two-pronged retail structure, in which it operates retail stores for the sale of eyeglasses while providing eye exams through a healthcare plan called Pearle VisionCare, doesn't shield it from a law requiring separation between retailers and optometry services, the state high court held Monday.
"They thought they found a technical refuge but the court stripped away that shelter," California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said in a statement. "Consumers have less protection when the firm selling eyewear also controls the doctors writing the prescription."
Lockyer sued Pearle Vision in 2002, claiming that the company falsely advertised that optometrists located in or near its retail stores were independent of the company. Monday's ruling allows the lawsuit to proceed toward trial. Lockyer is seeking civil penalties for violations of California law and an injunction to halt the ads.
Kathy Clark, a spokeswoman for Milan, Italy-based Luxottica, didn't return a call seeking comment.