GIVING GIFT VOUCHERS THIS CHRISTMAS? KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND THE RISKS
By Karl O’Connor, Solicitor.
If you are thinking of giving a Gift Voucher as a present this Christmas you should be aware your rights and the potential risks when purchasing same.
Gift cards constitute electronic money, which are regulated by EU Directive 2009/110/EC. This is implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011 (SI 183/2011). The Central Bank is responsible for enforcing the Regulations.
When you buy or receive a gift voucher or gift card:
- Always check the terms and conditions including the expiry date,
- Clarify what happens to any unused part,
- Check if it can be used in every outlet if the shop is part of a chain
- Pass on the terms and conditions if you are giving the voucher as a present
- Buy vouchers that can be used at more than one outlet or chain
- Use your vouchers as quickly as possible
- You do not have the right to get change when you use a gift voucher unless the voucher’s terms specifically state that change will be given on any unused portion.
Expiry Policies & Expiry Dates
Expiry dates for vouchers vary widely. Some shops have no clear gift voucher expiry policy, while others do. Some vouchers have the expiry date on the voucher itself, while other retailers may display expiry dates or their website or in their shops. If the expiry date is not printed on the voucher ensure to ask at the point of purchase for same. Do not assume there is no expiry date if it is not listed in the terms and conditions. Some retailers give you six months to redeem your voucher. Other retailers are far more flexible and may extend the expiry date on request.
What Can I Do If I Loose My Vouchers?
Retailers are not obliged to replace lost vouchers. If a voucher made out to you personally which is not transferable to another person is lost, the retailer may issue you with a new one and cancel the original voucher. When you buy a gift voucher, always ask for a receipt as proof of purchase, or if purchased with a debit/credit card you could produce to the retailer your debit/credit card statement, as proof of purchase. However, as mentioned above, the retailer is not obliged to replace lost vouchers.
If purchasing Gift cards, there are some thing to watch out for:
- Their minimum usage rules
- Expiry dates
- What happens to unused credit
- Whether you need to top-up the card in order to reactivate it
Some gift cards have monthly maintenance fees which come into effect soon after the card is purchased. These maintenance fees will continue to be deducted from the Gift Card on a monthly basis, while there is credit on the card which remains unused and could eventually wipe the credit on the card. Read the terms and conditions!
Online Group Discount Websites
These websites provide deals and discounts on hotels, restaurants, leisure activities, consumer goods etc. Rules on the use of these vouchers vary according to the group discount website and the business that is selling the deal. Always check the terms and conditions before you buy the voucher. It is also a good idea to check out the website of the business the deal applies to. When you buy one of these vouchers, you have the same consumer rights as you do when you buy a gift voucher in a shop.
What Happens If A Shop Closes Down?
If you have a voucher for a store that closes down before you get to use it, you become an unsecured creditor. Where a liquidator is appointed to wind up the company, you must register your claim for the value of your voucher with the liquidator. Your claim will only be considered after all other creditors have been paid, such as revenue commissioners, banks and the shop’s employees. It may prove very difficult to have your gift voucher honoured.
What Are My Rights If A Business Changes Ownership?
A new business owner does not have to accept a voucher that was issued by the previous business owners. If you paid for the voucher using a card, you could ask your bank about the possibility of getting a chargeback on your card (which is the reversal of the transaction), which can only be provided within a certain timeframe from the date you purchased the voucher.
Proposed Changes To Legislation On Gift Vouchers
On the 21st November 2017, Catherine Murphy TD., introduced the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill, 2017 to the Dáil. This legislation if passed, would favour consumers by banning many of the charges associated with gift vouchers. Among the provisions contained in the Bill, is a proposal to ensure gift vouchers would be valid for at least five years, the banning of charges for issuing gift vouchers and banning the practice of applying charges to unused or inactive balances.
For further information on Consumer Rights and your rights in relation to Gift Vouchers :-
Please contact us: Mellotte O’Carroll Solicitors Athlone Office (090)6492692 Mountbellew Office (090)967937 Email –firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is general advice only. In individual cases, please seek legal advice from your solicitor.