Clearly, professional colleges react to court decision

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Vancouver-based Clearly, the online optical company owned by Essilor, can continue selling prescription eyewear online in Ontario, the province’s appeals court has decided.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed this spring the Ontario College of Optometrists and the College of Opticians’ joint application to seek an injunction preventing Clearly from selling prescription eyewear in Ontario.

The court stated that when Clearly, which operates in compliance with the laws of its home province of British Columbia, is delivering eyeglasses to an Ontario consumer, the act of delivery is not the “controlled act” of “dispensing,” which Ontario law governs.

Arnaud Bussières, chief executive officer of Clearly, says the ruling is “great news for Ontario consumers who increasingly are turning to the Internet” for vision care information and purchases.

“Online sales of eyeglasses, contact lenses and sunglasses are one of the fastest-growing sectors and the optical industry must respond to these transformations. Online sales give many remote customers or busy families the opportunity to enjoy better vision on their own terms. This by no means reduces the need for eyecare professionals and comprehensive annual eye exams for good visual health,” he said in a statement.

Clearly says it wants to work with optometrists and opticians in Ontario and across Canada to meet the growing online demand for vision correction, protection and products, while continuing to deliver eye health information and promote the importance of eye examinations.

“For example, we are looking at establishing a prescription verification for any eyewear product requiring a prescription that is ordered on Clearly’s website,” says Bussières. “This action is an example of the initiatives we are ready to take to serve the consumer in its new journey while prioritizing eye health.”

In a joint statement, the College of Optometrists of Ontario and the College of Opticians of Ontario say they are disappointed in the outcome of the appeal.

The colleges say it was in an “effort to protect Ontario patients” that it initiated the legal proceeding against Essilor Group of Canada Inc./Clearly.

They sought an injunction that would prohibit Clearly from dispensing prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses online to the Ontario public without following Ontario legislation.

The Superior Court of Justice for Ontario granted the injunction on Jan. 11, 2018, which Clearly appealed.

“Our position throughout this legal action has been, and continues to be, squarely focused on ensuring Ontario patients receive appropriate eye health care regardless of where they purchase their eyewear, be that in store or online,” the colleges’ statement says.

“Improperly fitted glasses can lead to eyestrain, double vision and headaches. Improperly fitted contact lenses pose an even greater risk and can cause sight-threatening injuries, such as corneal ulcers and infection. Children are at particular risk. Aside from the fact that we know that children with vision problems often suffer from low self-esteem, frustration, poor literacy and headaches, wearing improperly fabricated or dispensed eyewear can lead to permanent vision development issues.”

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