Why We No Longer Sell Maui Jim or Costa del Mar Sunglasses
ADS Sports Eyewear filed an antitrust complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that outlines how Maui Jim and
Costa del Mar Prescription Sunglasses
have handicapped American companies who sell their products, and give exclusive advantages to the French company who owns their prescription lens designs.
- Essilor International is a large French conglomerate who dominates the prescription lens market world-wide. Essilor owns both the Shamir lens company, and Frames Direct, the largest online prescription eyewear retailer.
- Maui Jim and Costa del Mar rely on Shamir for their lens design, and both companies give Frames Direct almost exclusive rights to sell their prescription sunglasses online.
- The same week ADS Sports Eyewear invested enough to pass Frames Direct in a search for Prescription Maui Jim Sunglasses, Maui Jim told us that Frames Direct was the only company allowed to have an “Add to Cart” button on pages selling Maui Jim prescription sunglasses. Then on October 27, 2014 we were notified that "Maui Jim has the option, at any time, and without giving reason, to discontinue doing business with an account. At this time, Maui Jim USA, Inc. elects to exercise this option."
Essilor International owns the
prescription lens design used by
Maui Jim and Costa Sunglasses.
Essilor also owns Frames Direct,
the largest online eyewear retailer.
Maui Jim and Costa give Frames Direct almost exclusive access to sell their Rx sunglasses online. American retailers are not allowed to compete for this business.
The Shamir free-form lens designs are infinitely better than anything else on the market, and all the top sports eyewear brands work closely with Shamir. ADS Sports Eyewear also uses the Shamir free-form lens designs. But Maui Jim and Costa del Mar are the only brands that display an open contempt for American retailers who want to compete with Frames Direct on a level playing field.
The basics of the Anti Trust Complaint that was filed with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) on September 16, 2013 is pasted below. Anyone with an opinion or input about this complaint can contact us at [email protected]. Emails sent to this address may be published on this page.
Essilor is the largest prescription lens manufacturer in the world. The company is based in France, but has a very large presence in the US. They own the lens designs for most of the progressive lenses on the market. Essilor also owns most of the large optical laboratories in the US. The only threat to Essilor’s total dominance of the prescription lens market was Shamir in Israel. Shamir created a digital lens design that recalculates the curve at every part on a lens. This is called a “free-form” lens design. This provides much better clarity in the peripheral portions of a lens, even in wrapped sunglasses. Essilor and Shamir were previously the only two companies in the world with a free-form digital lens design. All the top brands of prescription sunglasses had chosen the Shamir lens design for their prescription sunglasses. Essilor purchased Shamir two years ago. Now Essilor is the only company that can offer this free-form technology. Every lab in the country that surfaces a free-form lens must pay Essilor a fee for each free-form lens they surface.
As mentioned earlier, the Frames Direct online eyewear store is owned by Essilor. Frames Direct is now the largest online eyewear dealer in the US. Frames Direct sells prescription eyewear and sunglasses for almost every recognizable eyewear brand. All of the most popular brands of sunglasses rely on the Shamir lens designs for their prescription sunglasses, and all of these manufacturers have very restrictive rules about who can sell their products online. Frames Direct is either exempt from these rules or simply ignores them with no visible repercussions from the manufacturers. American retailers who fail to comply with these rules would be cut off immediately. Frames Direct is not only breaking these rules with impunity, but the manufacturers that depend on the Essilor lens designs also give Frames Direct openly preferential treatment that is not offered to any American retailers. Listed below are some of the most obvious examples:
- All the most popular sunglasses manufacturers require online retailers to have at least one brick and mortar retail store. Our company was originally an online-only operation. However, to meet this requirement we leased a retail store. This rule does not apply to Frames Direct. Frames Direct is an online-only operation.
- Maui Jim does not allow online dealers to have an “Add to Cart” button on pages that sell their prescription sunglasses. Frames Direct is not required to follow this rule. We were notified of this rule only after we had invested enough to pass Frames Direct in a Google search for this brand. To comply with this new requirement our customers must call to place a prescription order.
- Costa del Mar simply stopped filling our orders the same week we got to page one on Google for “Prescription Costa”. They would not give us a reason for refusing to fill our orders, and Costa ignored our phone calls and emails for two months before sending a representative to our store. This representative told us we could not sell Costa del Mar online until we were selling $25,000 per year in our store. Costa does permit Frames Direct to sell Costa online. Once again, the restrictions placed on American retailers do not apply to Frames Direct.
- Some manufacturers provide a link from their site directly to the Frames Direct web site for the prescription version of their glasses. Although manufacturers seem sympathetic to our requests to be included on these pages, it is clear that these companies cannot refer shoppers to any retailer except Frames Direct without offending Essilor.
Essilor also owns Transitions Optical, Inc. (“Transitions”) This is the Transitions lens company that dominates the market for lenses that darken in sunlight. Transitions collects sales data from every optical lab that uses Transitions lenses (this is every lab in the country). Optical retailers like us receive discounts from Transitions based on the number of Transitions lenses ordered as a percentage of total lab orders. This gives Essilor access to the prescription sales volume of every eyewear retailer in the country. Additionally, they know what types of lenses each retailer is selling, even if the retailer does not use an Essilor-owned lab. Having this much confidential information about every competitor in the retail market gives Essilor’s Frames Direct an unfair advantage over every American retailer that sells prescription lenses.
The Frames Direct web site sells over 500 brands of eyewear. This complaint is specific to the brands that rely on Essilor for their prescription lens designs. These manufacturers include:
The following text is copied from the Federal Trade Commission web site:
“A vertical arrangement may violate the antitrust laws if it reduces competition among firms at the same level (say among retailers or among wholesalers) or prevents new firms from entering the market. This is particularly a concern in markets with few sellers or those dominated by one seller.”
Essilor and Frames Direct are the perfect example of why this law is necessary. It is clearly a violation of US antitrust law, and well beyond the boundaries of fair competition, for Frames Direct to sell brands of eyewear that rely on the Essilor lens design. Moreover, Frames Direct, an Essilor subsidiary, should not be allowed to compete in a retail market where they have access to every competitor’s sales figures through their Transitions Lens division. History clearly shows that there is not only the possibility of abuse by Essilor, but also a clear pattern of abuse. The sunglasses manufacturers listed above have Essilor as their only option to get access to the new free-form prescription lens designs. This clearly allows Essilor’s Frames Direct subsidiary to ignore the rules and restrictions that apply to every American retailer. No manufacturer that relies on the Essilor lens design can afford to risk their relationship with Essilor by enforcing these rules with Frames Direct.
If Essilor’s Frames Direct division is allowed to compete at the retail level in the prescription eyewear market then Frames Direct should not be allowed to sell prescription eyewear for manufacturers that rely on Essilor for their prescription lens design.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have concerning this very urgent and important matter. You will find my contact information below, as well as that of Essilor and Frames Direct.
ADS Sports Eyewear
(214) 4 SPORTS
Tel: + 33 (0)1 49 77 44 50
Dallas, TX 75234