Seeing issues in eyewear industry; Vexing prices paid for quality vision


     An optical industry trade group called The Vision Council estimates that around three-quarters of adults in the United States use some sort of vision correction. Regardless, the average cost of eyeglass frames is still 231 dollars. This is the price 126 million people must pay to see.

     This price tag might be understandable if glasses were still made the old-fashioned way, which was by hand using leather, wood, copper, or occasionally animal horns to make heavy frames that people would have to hold up or perch on their noses. 

     Obviously, this isn’t the case–glasses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes to match different personalities. Also, manufacturing has come a long way. Glasses are no longer made by hand or crusty animal bones, but rather using sophisticated machines and plastic. Logically this should mean that glasses can be bought relatively cheaply, right? After all, the true cost of acetate frames (three pieces of plastic and some metal pieces) is just ten dollars.

     Well, no. Apparently, people needing to see and an automated manufacturing process just aren’t enough to convince EssilorLuxottica, the company that owns every major eyeglass brand and the second-largest vision insurance company in the United States, to lower the prices.

     Sounds an awful lot like a monopoly, right? Essilor is able to reap the main benefit that comes from having a monopoly on an industry without technically being one: they can set whatever prices they want because, well, people can’t exactly help the fact they quite simply cannot see. They have no choice but to buy eyeglasses at whatever price they set.

     Furthermore, if a consumer is insured by Eyemed and they buy frames by Essilor, then the company has made the glasses, sold them at the prices they set, and paid themselves part of the money through the insurance company they own. Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?

     Former CEO of EssilorLuxottica Andrea Guerra claimed that at least half a billion people are wearing glasses by the company at any given moment. This is because the company turned a medical tool into high fashion by making frames for brands like Prada, Chanel, Dolce Gabbana, and Versace. Their reach also expands into sunglasses, as the company also owns Sunglass Hut–the largest sunglass chain in the world.

     While the company does have some competitors like Walmart Vision and Glasses as well as online companies, Essilor still influences their eyewear and prices. If a company makes frames, they need their frames to be in Essilor’s stores. If a company wants to sell frames in their stores, they need Essilor’s frames in their stores. This is why glasses end up costing so much, even locally.

     People who wear glasses certainly didn’t ask to have to pay an excessive amount just to view the world in the same way others do. People who want to wear effective sunglasses to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays shouldn’t have to pay a ridiculous amount just to ensure they won’t face the consequences. The way a few people behind a company take advantage of people’s needs is sickening, and it needs to stop.