Framed: The Ontario Eyeglasses Problem Examined

The CBC Marketplace episode Framed takes a very interesting look into the world of prescriptions and eyeglasses through their regulation and sale. This is an area of particular interest to me as I myself wear glasses and am forced to pay into this restrictive retail market.

I would like to start off by pointing out that the intent of this piece is not to make a summary of the video, something you should do on your own time, but instead focus on connections that the CBC failed to make  in the episode.

The problem I see with the argument made by the CBC is that there is a disconnect in their journalistic methodology. When they outlined lack of the Pupillary Distance (PD) information on prescriptions issues in Ontario they incorrectly attribute this to monopolistic business practices by prescription eyeglass retailers. The issue of uncompetitive pricing between the few retailers selling glasses in Ontario might be true but doesn’t actually relate to the lack of a PD value on prescriptions. This vagueness can be attributed to Marketplace’s failure to choose whether the episode is about the restricted nature of eyeglasses retailers in Ontario and the related legislation, or the incomplete nature of the prescriptions issued through the College of Optometrists of Ontario.

If they wanted to focus on the retail aspect of the problem then they really didn’t choose a good argument. Nothing is restricting anyone from entering the market and selling eyeglasses in Ontario any more than other similarly licenced industries. The man who was mention as having been jailed for breaking the law selling glasses did so not in the pricing of his glasses, or the sale of prescription lenses, but the use of a automated eye exam device which, while legal in BC, is illegal in Ontario. Secondly, the choice by retailers to withhold the your PD value that they measure in the store is their own prerogative and if you don’t like that then you are free to go to another retailer who will give  you your PD value. The existence of this choice and a store that provides this service is only restricted by consumers not demanding it of retailers. So their use of this argument on the grounds of consumer advocacy is flawed because it is still up to the retailer to price out the glasses while having no control over the medical aspects of this industry. Should Marketplace have chosen to pursue pricing of glasses at retailers then bringing up prescriptions and PD values was a waste of time.

If Marketplace was looking to highlight the lack of the PD value on prescriptions issued by doctors through the Ontario College of Optometrist then they should have focused more closely on the decision by the College to not require the inclusion of that value in prescriptions, something which they only touched on in passing.

Without making a clear distinction as to what the intention of their episode was it was quite hard to follow whether Marketplace managed to accomplish their goal of alerting consumers to the problem as they failed to define exactly when the problem was. Even with the mention of Clearly Contacts (a site which I am actually considering purchasing my next pair of glasses from) the PD blame game between the retailers and the Collage of Optometrists of Ontario continues, which neither solves the proposed problem nor makes it any easier to buy affordable glasses in Ontario.


Hayward Peirce Written by:

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