WITH Christmas fast approaching, and all of the Black Friday hype, is the time of year when many of us purchase gift vouchers for friends and family.
There are many benefits to gift vouchers but there are also some risks, for example, if you lose the voucher, it expires before you use it, or if you’re unable to spend the remaining balance. It is important you know the conditions and rules that apply before buying a gift voucher.
The following are some common queries that the Citizens Information Service receive in relation to gift vouchers:
What is a gift voucher?
Gift vouchers are any voucher, coupon or other document (including an electronic document) that can be used instead of money to pay (or pay in part) for goods and services. Gift vouchers come in different forms, such as paper gift certificates, electronic cards or gift cards. They can be issued by a single business or for a group of shops (such as a shopping centre). When you buy a gift voucher, you enter into a contract with the trader. The voucher is like cash that you hand over in exchange for goods and services.
What are the current rules that apply to Gift vouchers?
Gift vouchers must either have no expiry date or be valid for at least 5 years The seller cannot make you spend the gift voucher in one single transaction The seller cannot charge a fee to change the name on a gift voucher (if you must register a name on the voucher) If the balance remaining on a gift voucher is more than €1 after you buy something, the seller must refund the balance to you. They can give you cash, make an electronic transfer or give you another gift voucher.
Are there any exceptions to the rules?
The rules do not apply to: Vouchers you can only use to buy specified goods and services at a discounted price, from a specified trader on a specified date, or for a specified period of 3 months or less e.g. vouchers from deal websites such as Groupon or Pigsback Vouchers you got as part of a customer loyalty or promotion scheme Vouchers you got as a refund for goods you returned to a trader Vouchers and gift cards sold before 2 December 2019. The expiry period and the terms and conditions that applied at the time of purchase still apply to these vouchers The rules do not apply to electronic money gift cards.
What is an electronic money gift card?
In general, electronic money gift cards (for example, One- 4all gift cards), are cards that can be used in a number of different shops. The following rules apply to electronic money gift cards: Before you buy the card, you must be told about the conditions for using the e-money card, including any fees. Fees must be proportionate and in line with the costs actually incurred by the business who issues the card to you.
Is there an expiry dates on gift vouchers?
There is a five-year minimum expiry date for all vouchers sold after 2 December 2019. Gift vouchers must either: Have no expiry date, or Must be valid for at least 5 years from the date the gift voucher is issued. You must be given details of the expiry date in a durable format (for example, on paper or by email) at the time you buy the gift voucher. The legislation does not apply to gift vouchers bought before December 2nd, 2019.
What are my rights if I still have a voucher bought before 2 December 2019?
You should have been made aware of the expiry date at time of purchase. Some traders print the expiry on the voucher itself, on the packaging, on the website or you can see the policy in the shop. If it is not clear, ask or look for the policy. Expiry dates can vary as the trader decides how long they are valid for. Some traders may be flexible. If your voucher has expired, contact the trader to see if they will extend it. However, if you bought the gift voucher before December 2nd, 2019, they have no legal obligation to do this and some may charge a fee.
What are my rights if I lose a gift voucher?
Gift vouchers are like cash, so if you lose them, the company does not have to replace them. If a voucher was made out to you specifically and is not transferable to anyone else, you may be able to get a replacement. This depends on the gift voucher’s terms and conditions and the company’s policy. If you lose a gift card, you may be able to get a replacement card but you need to check with the retailer. You could be charged a fee for the replacement card.
What happens if a trader goes out of business?
If a company goes out of business before you use the voucher, you may have difficulty getting your money back. Usually, the seller will owe money to several people so your claim is just one of many. There are rules for the priority to be given to the various debts owed in the case of the business going into liquidation or receivership. Generally, you will be low in the order of priority. You will need to make a claim in writing to the appointed administrator or liquidator (if applicable) providing proof of your voucher. However, it is unlikely your voucher will be honoured. If a new owner takes over, they do not have to honour your voucher. For this reason, you should buy gift vouchers using a credit or debit card, as you may be able to use chargeback through your bank or credit card provider. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has more information on companies going out of business on www.ccpc.ie
Where can I get more help?
If a trader refuses to honour a gift card, first try to settle the dispute directly with the trader. You should make the company aware of the rules under the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019. If you cannot resolve the dispute, contact your local Citizens Information Service and they will advise you about your options for redress.