Visionworks’ buy one, get one free offer on eyeglasses has bought it a new federal class action complaint. 

Cheryl Lenart, a Cook County resident, filed her putative class action complaint Tuesday in Chicago, alleging while consumers may buy one pair, the other one costs much more than “free,” as Visionworks allegedly “increases the ordinary and usual price for a single pair of eyeglasses, such that the second pair is not truly free.” 

According to the complaint, the Federal Trade Commission prohibits using “free” offers for more than six months of any 12-month period. Lenart also cited the 1985 Illinois First District Appellate Court opinion in Fineman v. Citicorp USA, in which the court held a buy one, get one free offer is deceptive under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act “when, with respect to the article of merchandise required to be purchased in order to obtain the ‘free’ article, the offeror … increases the ordinary and usual price.” 

Based in San Antonio, Visionworks of America is one of the nation’s largest eyeglasses retailers. The chain has 33 Illinois locations. Lenart, who shopped at the Woodfield Mall store in Schaumburg, detailed in her complaint the marketing of the buy one, get one offer in digital, print and display advertising, as well as in person from a sales clerk. She supplied one example as evidence, but noted each of the written forms of the promotion “were virtually identical and substantially similar.” 

Lenart said the online and print advertising led her to visit the mall Oct. 11. Outside the store, she again encountered the buy one, get one promotion. 

“When she inquired about the offer inside the store,” the complaint said, “a salesclerk quoted her a price of $332.03 for a single pair of eyeglasses, and stated that the second pair of eyeglasses would be ‘free’ under the offer.” 

However, Lenart alleges, “the ordinary and usual price for such a single pair of eyeglasses was approximately 40 percent less than the” $332.03 she paid. “Visionworks — by using the word free continuously and repeatedly — had inflated the price of the first pair of eyeglasses well beyond its true price.” She argues the second pair of glasses had an actual worth of approximately $132.81. 

Lenart notes a similar ongoing complaint in federal court in Ohio, Graiser v. Visionworks of America, began in 2013, “yet Visionworks has persisted to continuously and repeatedly use the word free in violation of Illinois’s (and Ohio’s) prohibitions.” 

The class would include “tens of thousands” of people who accepted a buy one, get one free offer from Visionworks in Illinois over the preceding three years. Excluded would be customers who bought glasses from Visionworks without accepting the offer. This includes shoppers who used vision insurance and those who took advantage of a different promotion to buy flat price glasses. 

In addition to class certification, Lenart has requested a jury trial, actual and punitive damages of at least $5 million, plus attorney fees. 

Representing Lenart in the matter, and the putative plaintiffs’ class, are Werman Salas, of Chicago; Landskroner Grieco Merriman, of Cleveland; and Mark Schlachet, also of Cleveland.

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