Marketers of "Pinhole" Eyeglasses Settle FTC Charges
of False and Unsubstantiated Advertising Claims
One Settlement Includes $425,000 for Consumer Redress
FTC News Release
March 16, 1994
Two companies and three individuals that market "pinhole eyeglasses"—opaque plastic "lenses" with multiple pinholes—have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made numerous false and unsubstantiated claims about the vision-improvement benefits of their eyeglasses. The FTC alleged that, among other things, the defendants represented that the pinhole glasses could correct vision disorders and permanently cure a wide range of vision deficiencies, including farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. In two separate settlements, the defendants would be prohibited in the future from making the alleged false claims or engaging in the practices challenged by the FTC. In addition, one of the companies and two of the individuals have agreed to pay $425,000 into a fund for possible consumer redress.
The FTC's complaint detailing the charges names LaserVision, Inc., based in Las Vegas, NV, and company officers, Chase Revel, also known as John Burke, and Neil Mikesell; and Chase-Blade, Inc., based in Malibu, CA, and one of its officers, Blade Thomas.
This is the fifth FTC case challenging claims for pinhole eyeglasses. In this case, the purportedly therapeutic eyeglasses were advertised and sold for $39.95 throughout the United States under the brand names "LaserVision" and "Eyerciser." The defendants advertised their eyeglasses using allegedly deceptive printed promotional materials that were written in news story format by "James Milford, Science Writer." The ads were mailed to consumers with handwritten notes saying, "Try this. It works."
The defendants also used program-length television commercials—infomercials—instructing consumers to place orders by calling a toll-free number or by sending an order through the mail. Consumers were instructed to direct their orders to various entities, such as the American Eye Research Institute. The infomercials and one of the print ads included deceptive endorsements by consumers and experts, the FTC alleged.
The complaint also references numerous statements in the ads and promotional materials that allegedly misrepresented the vision-improvement benefits of the glasses. Among other things, according to the complaint, the ads and promotional material made representations that wearing the glasses for only a few minutes each day could improve or restore the wearer's vision and correct specific vision problems, and eliminate the wearer's need for prescription glasses or contacts. In addition, the complaint alleges, the defendants represented that their glasses are a new, patented device and that their efficacy in improving vision has been proven by scientific research. The complaint further alleges that the American Eye Research Institute was represented to be a bona fide research organization that has funded vision research in the past.
In fact, the FTC complaint alleges, contrary to the defendants' representations, that:
- the use of pinhole eyeglasses does not result in long-term improvement in these vision problems;
- pinhole eyeglasses do not cure, correct or ameliorate specific vision problems;
- pinhole eyeglasses are not an adequate substitute for prescription lenses or contact lenses;
- the efficacy of pinhole eyeglasses in improving vision has not been proven by scientific research;
- pinhole eyeglasses do not eliminate the need for professional diagnosis and treatment of vision problems;
- pinhole eyeglasses are not a new, patented device; and
- the American Eye Research Institute is not a bona fide research organization that has funded vision research.
The FTC also charged that the defendants made false and unsubstantiated representations that their pinhole glasses are an adequate substitute for sunglasses. According to the complaint, however, the glasses cause the pupils of the eye to dilate, thus letting in additional ultraviolet rays, which could damage wearers' eyes.
The proposed stipulated final judgments to settle the charges would permanently prohibit the defendants from making the specific representations challenged by the FTC. The defendants also would be permanently prohibited from making any representation about the benefits or performance of any medical device or vision-related program unless they can substantiate the representation with competent and reliable scientific evidence. In addition, the defendants would be prohibited from misrepresenting the results of any tests or studies.
The proposed settlements also would prohibit those defendants who allegedly used deceptive testimonals from misrepresenting that an endorsement is typical of the ordinary experiences of consumers and would require the defendants to discontinue dealing with any person who makes any representation prohibited by the settlement.
The proposed settlements would further require the defendants to provide copies of the judgment to past and future purchasers of their products for resale, to institute a program to determine whether future purchasers for resale are making deceptive or false claims in the advertising or promotion of any such product, and to terminate those who continue to make the claims prohibited by the settlement. LaserVision, Inc., Revel and Mikesell have also paid $425,000 into an escrow account to be used by the Commission to provide redress to consumers. If redress is impractical, the funds would be paid to the US Treasury.
The Commission vote to file the complaint and proposed settlements was 5-0. The settlements are subject to court approval. The documents were filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, on March 15.
- Federal Trade Commission v. LaserVision, Civil Action No. CV-94-1691 (Central District of California). FTC File No. 922-3024.
This page was posted on August 27, 2006.