Iowa Attorney General Sues
"See Clearly" Marketers for Fraud
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
The See Clearly Method is claimed to enable people to see more clearly; eliminate or reduce nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, poor vision due to aging and eyestrain; strengthen the eye muscles; eliminate or reduce the need for glasses and contacts; and prevent further deterioration of vision. There is no logical reason to believe that any of these claims is true . Moreover, the Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc. (VIT), which markets the product, has an unsatisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau due to "a pattern of complaints" and "failing to correct the underlying reason for the complaints."
The program, which costs about $300, includes manuals, charts, and tapes or CDs that demonstrate eye exercises and other techniques. The exercises and "techniques" included focusing eyes using special charts or props, facing a bright light with eyes closed at a distance of a few inches, covering eyes with hands for sustained periods, and applying hot and cold wash cloths over closed eyes. The method is based in part on the work of William H. Bates, M.D., whose ideas have been dismissed by mainstream eye-care professionals for decades .
Attorney General Sues
In August 2005, the Iowa Attorney General filed a lawsuit accusing VIT and four of its officers of fraud . According to the suit:
- The method was advertised as safe, easy, and even fun, without disclosing that some of the primary eye exercises could produce headaches, and did in fact produce headaches in some users.
- Advertisements featured testimonials from people with undisclosed connections to the company.
- Ads continued to use "no more glasses" testimonials, even after the people making such claims had quit using the product and were wearing glasses most of the time.
- Many VIT representatives, including several "See Clearly Method Consultants" who supposedly advised consumers about how to use the method to best advantage, continued to need corrective lenses even after long periods of involvement with VIT.
- VIT claimed that it received letters every day from satisfied consumers who had enjoyed tremendous improvement in their vision, but, in fact, positive letters were relatively scarce and were far outnumbered by letters from unhappy customers.
- The company also made it too difficult for dissatisfied purchasers to get refunds .
Temporary Injunction Issued
In February 2006, VIT agreed to a stipulated temporary injunction that will be in force while the fraud lawsuit proceeds. The injunction requires VIT to:
- Disclose to prospective buyers that some users may experience headaches as a result of the eye exercises. (The suit alleges that some consumers reported severe headaches from doing the exercises, but VIT did not inform consumers of that possibility.)
- Disclose that it recommends devoting a minimum of 30 minutes per day to the exercises for best results. (The lawsuit alleges that VIT represented that exercises were easy and required only "minutes a day" when in fact it recommended at least half an hour per day.)
- Change several procedures in how it handles requests by consumers trying to take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee. (The lawsuit alleges that customers trying to call the company to arrange to return See Clearly kits were met with various obstacles, including making repeated phone calls without being able to reach a company representative, leaving messages but not receiving a return call, and being left on hold for half an hour or more.)
- Refrain from making one-sided references to customer satisfaction without providing a balanced picture of consumer response. (The lawsuit alleges that in one 54-day sampling of actual consumer contacts, VIT received 6 favorable contacts and 49 complaint letters.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has said:
This injunction doesn't resolve the most fundamental problems we alleged, including whether the See Clearly Method really works as claimed, and whether VIT can demonstrate a reasonable basis for its claims, as it is required to do. Those basic issues will be resolved at trial. Meanwhile, however, this injunction reins-in some of the specific consumer abuses we alleged in the suit - and it should make it much easier for people to obtain refunds under the company's 30-day refund policy if they are not satisfied with the program .
The trial related to claims for the product is scheduled in September.
- Worrall RS and others. Eye-related quackery. Quackwatch, April 3, 2006.
- BBB reliability report: Vision Improvement Technologies. Better Business Bureau of Greater Iowa, Quad Cities, & Siouxland Region, April 3, 2006.
- Miller sues Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc. Iowa Attorney General news release, Aug 10, 2005.
- Stipulated temporary injunction. State of Iowa ex rel. Thomas J. Miller v. Vision Improvement Technologies, Cliff Rose, David E. Sykes, Davis W. Muris, and Gary Korf. Iowa District Court for Polk County, Case No. CE 51687, filed Feb 22, 2006.
- Temporary Injunction Issued Against"See Clearly Method" Company—Vision Improvement Technologies: While a consumer fraud case proceeds, the agreed-upon injunction restricts marketing claims by the Fairfield company—and requires timely handling of requests by consumers trying to take advantage of the company's 30-day money-back guarantee. Iowa AG press release, Feb 23, 2006.
This article was posted on April 3, 2006.