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March 5, 2019

Legal Update

Essilor has appealed the January 11, 2018 decision of Justice Lederer which ordered that it may not dispense prescription eyewear in Ontario unless the dispensing is performed by an optometrist, optician or physician who is licenced to practice in Ontario. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on September 21, 2018. The Court of Appeal granted Essilor's request to stay Justice Lederer's order until the appeal is determined. This means that Essilor can continue their "business as usual" until its appeal is heard and decided. If the appeal is dismissed, Justice Lederer's order will go into effect.

In an effort to protect Ontario patients, the College of Opticians in partnership with the College of Optometrists of Ontario initiated a legal proceeding against Essilor Group of Canada Inc./Clearly.  Essilor is the company that owns and operates the online entity Clearly. The Colleges were concerned that Essilor/Clearly have been dispensing prescription eyewear via their website to patients in Ontario without the direct involvement of an optician, optometrist, or physician who is licensed to practice in Ontario. This is a violation of provincial law.

The College of Opticians and the College of Optometrists jointly filed an application in December of 2016 and the matter was heard October 11, 2017.  Justice Lederer delivered his decision on January 11, 2018 in favor of the two regulatory colleges.

Although the Colleges are still reviewing the decision in detail, they are pleased that the court has agreed with the position of the two Colleges on the questions we brought forward. The two Colleges are motivated by and required by legislation to maintain patient safety and to act in the public interest.

In the event of an appeal, the Colleges will continue to defend the public interest in court. The Colleges believe that the internet can be an effective tool for the provision of vision care.

However, the dispensing of corrective lenses is a controlled act, subject to Ontario legislation, that definitively requires a regulated health professional's involvement. Mail order over the internet without the involvement of an optometrist or optician is inconsistent with legislation.

The role of the Colleges is to regulate the practice of optometry and opticianry in order to maintain and enhance public safety.  The Colleges support increased access to care for the patient, whether it be via the internet or any other method that as long as legislation and regulations are respected, and standards are met ensuring patient safety.

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