Contested Utah law could impact $4 billion contact lens industry in bitter price battle

Economic Indicators Associated Press

A law banning price-fixing for contact lenses that took effect this week in Utah is a setback for the nation's largest manufacturers that could have ripple effects across the country amid an increasingly bitter fight with discount retailers.

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Steve DelBianco with the Internet trade group NetChoice says the new law appears to clear the way for the largest online discount seller, Utah-based 1-800 Contacts, to sell discount contacts across state lines despite minimum prices set by the lens makers.

But contact lens manufacturers are fighting the measure in court. Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb and Alcon Laboratories say the law is an unconstitutional overreach written specifically to bolster the Utah-based online retailer 1-800 Contacts.

State officials have been vague on whether Utah companies can now sell at discounted rates to customers outside the state.