Copy That: Your Eye Prescription Belongs to You

Did you know that if you have an eye exam or a fitting for contact lenses, the eye doctor must give you a copy of your prescription—without you having to ask for it—free of charge? It’s your right—and it’s enforced by the Federal Trade Commission via the Eyeglass Rule and the Contact Lens Rule. Having your prescription in hand allows you to comparison shop and not only find the best deal, but, if you wear glasses,  the right style as well.

Online shopping sites and brick-and-mortar stores offer a variety of styles and prices. If a patient elects to purchase contact lenses from a third party, the seller must verify the prescription before filling it. When requested, optometrists are required to respond to sellers’ requests for prescription verification within eight business hours.

Eyeglass prescriptions must be released to the patient immediately following the eye exam. Prescriptions for contact lenses must be released immediately upon completion of the eye exam or the contact lens fitting (if a fitting is necessary). If specialty lenses must be purchased in order to complete the fitting process, the charges for those lenses can be passed along to the patient. Contact lens fitting refers to the process that begins after an initial eye examination for contact lenses and ends when a successful fit has been achieved. In cases of renewal prescriptions, the fitting ends when the prescriber determines that no change in the existing prescription is required.

The federal laws also require a few additional dos and don’ts for those who write and fill prescriptions:

Prescribers cannot:

  • Place certain conditions on the release or verification of a contact lens prescription
  • Require the patient to sign a waiver or release as a condition of verifying or releasing a prescription

Third-party contact lens sellers must:

  • Receive a copy of the prescription or verify the prescription before selling lenses
  • Allow eight business hours for the prescriber to verify the prescription
  • Adhere to “passive verification,” which means that if the provider does not respond to a verification request within eight business hours, the seller can fill the prescription
  • Retain patient records for three years

Optometrists must be licensed by the California State Board of Optometry. You can verify the license by clicking on the “License Search” tab at

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