I am concerned that the articles on internet pricing of contact lenses (May 6, 2005) do not accurately reflect the true situation on our brands.
We conducted our own pricing audit and found:

  • Several of the prices of our brands you reported are customer-specific promotions
  • All of the lowest prices reported originate in the US and are a function of the current weakness in the US dollar
  • All lens orders over £18 value which are supplied from outside Europe are subject to between 17.5 per cent and 20.4 per cent VAT and duty. This was not reflected in your pricing
  • In most cases, the consumer must purchase large volumes (eg 360 pairs of Dailies) to achieve the lowest prices reported.
    We should also put the issue in context, as less than 3 per cent of contact lenses are bought from pure internet retailers.

    I also believe that it is critical to recognise the very different business model that these 'e-tailers' work to. By design they have low overheads, a simple supply service and low margin expectations; it is for these reasons that they are able to offer lower consumer prices. The Ciba Vision pricing policy does not drive down consumer prices.

    Opticians deliver a very different service compared to e-tailers, caring not only for the vision, but also the eye health needs of their patients, and I believe that opticians should charge for these important services. We only need to look at dentistry as a comparable industry where, for the most part, the patient pays in full for the service they receive. In our own market there are many successful practices that charge appropriately and transparently for their valuable services. Including these charges within the selling price of contact lenses could lead to unfavourable price comparison versus internet retailers.

    At Ciba Vision we remain committed to working with all of our eye care professional customers to help them to grow and retain a loyal base of consumers who recognise the true value of the service they receive, and we will continue to develop innovative programs for our customers to achieve this.

    Howard Barnes
    Managing director, Ciba Vision UK