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Edmund E. Cole might call it an optical illusion. He’s definitely calling it fraud. In a law suit, the seasonal North Palm Beach resident says he visited Eyeglass World’s store in Lake Worth in March to replace his high-index lenses, the thin kind people with really bad eyes buy to eliminate the unsightly “Coke-bottle” look of regular glasses. He paid $118 for the lenses, $18 for gray tinting and $20 for a coating to filter the sun’s ultraviolet rays. In the suit filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court, Cole alleges that Eyeglass World violated the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by charging him for UV protection the lenses already had. Cole says the problems began when he returned to Eyeglass World for an adjustment a few days later and a manager broke the frames. Although Cole demanded replacement frames, the suit alleges he was told he must buy a new pair; he acquiesced because he couldn’t see without his glasses. While buying the new frames, Cole says, he heard from a sales associate that high-index lenses come with built-in UV protection. He figured he had paid $20 for nothing. So Cole, who makes his home in Osterville, Mass., wrote the company in May demanding the $20 UV fee and $199.95 for the replacement frames. Eyeglass World, a nationwide chain of 19 stores headquartered in Lake Worth and operated by Musa Holdings Inc., ignored him. In his letter, Cole threatened a class-action suit, and this week he took a step toward making good on his promise by filing the claim against Eyeglass World and Musa HOLDINGS He’s seeking to have the suit certified as a class action and demands compensatory and punitive damages for himself and all other Eyeglass World customers who bought high-index lenses and paid extra for UV protection. Musa Holdings president Marco Musa said he has not seen the suit, but said if Cole paid $20 for UV protection, it’s a mistake and he should receive a refund. “I’m unaware that it happened; our people are not perfect, unfortunately,” he added. But he denied any responsibility for replacing Cole’s frames since they were not purchased from his company. Musa said this policy is posted on a sign in their stores. “I hope we can make Eyeglass World see the errors in their ways,” said Lawrence M. Kopelman of Kopelman & Blankman of Fort Lauderdale, one of Cole’s attorneys. Kopelman and Douglas A. Blankman are teaming up with the consumer class-action firm Phillips & Garcia in North Dartmouth, Mass. This is not the first time Eyeglass World has run into trouble. When attorney Carlin Phillips began to investigate, he learned that Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth fined Eyeglass World $500,000 in February following an examination of its sales practices. Butterworth’s office alleged that Eyeglass World pressured the optometrists who lease space at each store into pushing patients to buy new glasses. It also charged that Eyeglass World sold outdated, used and nonsterile contact lenses; sold diagnostic lenses and solution starter kits provided free by the manufacturer; misrepresented itself as an approved provider for a certain health insurance plan; intentionally misquoted prices over the phone; engaged in bait-and-switch tactics; and failed to have a licensed optician on premises with proper equipment to perform tests required by the Food and Drug Administration. Eyeglass World denied the claims but agreed to a civil penalty. The company also agreed to make restitution to consumers and to pay the costs of the investigation. Eyeglass World also said it would revise its leases with optometrists to ensure it does not exert “improper influence over their medical practices.”

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