Class Action Suits Grow Against Transitions and Essilor
05/04/2010 0 Comments
NEW YORK—A small but growing number of optical companies, including a wholesale laboratory and two retailers, have filed separate class action lawsuits against Transitions Optical, Essilor of America and Essilor Laboratories of America (ELOA) for alleged violations of federal and state antitrust laws.
The four suits filed to date claim that the three companies engaged in “unlawful, anticompetitive conduct that had the effect of improperly maintaining Transitions’ monopoly in the photochromic lens market,” according to court documents. They directly follow a settlement concluded last month between the Federal Trade Commission and Transitions Optical that bars the company from using allegedly anticompetitive practices to maintain its monopoly and increase prices on photochromic lenses.
Transitions Optical, the leading producer of photochromic lenses, is jointly owned by PPG Industry, which holds a 51 percent stake, and Essilor, which holds the remaining 49 percent.
The most recent company to make a claim against the three companies is Arthur L. Cartier Optics, a Connecticut retailer, which filed a direct purchaser class action antitrust suit in the Western District of Washington on April 22.
See-Mor Optical of Hewlett, Inc., a New York retailer, filed a direct purchaser class action antitrust suit against the three companies and Essilor International in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida on April 21.
As previously reported in VMail, Nouveau Optical, a Washington state-based wholesale laboratory, filed suit against Transitions Optical, Essilor of America and ELOA on March 30 in U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington.
In a related development, Axhi Sabani, a resident of Madison, Wis. filed an indirect purchaser antitrust class action suit in a Wisconsin circuit court against the three companies on March 16. According to court documents, Sabani alleges that Transitions Optical and the Essilor defendants engaged in “exclusionary acts and practices in the photochromic lens industry” that “include entering into exclusive dealing arrangements that foreclose its rivals from key distribution channels.” The suit claims that Transitions’ conduct has led to “higher prices, lower output, reduced innovation and diminished consumer choice in Wisconsin,” the court documents said.
Judge J.P. Stadtmueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, who is overseeing the Sabani case, has given the defendants until June 11 to respond to the claims.
In a separate move, See-Mor has filed a request with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation seeking to consolidate its suit together with the Sabani and Nouveau Vision suits in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Responding to a query from VMail about the class action suits, a Transitions Optical spokesperson said, “We remain confident that we have always acted in a manner that was in the best interest of our customers and the industry.”
An Essilor spokesperson said, “Essilor has always competed fairly for its business. We believe the allegations in the litigation are wholly without merit.”