LAWLINK: Gift card guidance

Q: I got a number of gift cards from generous friends and family when I got married and moved home four years ago. Covid and various other issues meant that I had to put them  away for a while – so safely that I had forgotten about them until now! Some of the retailers are still in business but one or two are now no longer trading. Is there anything that can be done?

A: Gift vouchers can come in various forms – paper or card – and are subject to certain terms and conditions either imposed by the retailer themselves, or by legislation. However, there are certain rights that accrue to you as the holder of such a voucher regardless.

Gift cards purchased after December 2, 2019, are dealt with differently to gift cards purchased prior to that date. Any card purchased before that date is subject to the terms and conditions as set out by the retailer.

If, for example, a voucher was bought on November 1, 2019, and was due to expire within twelve months, it is the case that the retailer may not be obliged to honour the voucher.

That is not to say that the retailer will not honour the voucher, they may very well do so from the perspective of good customer relations. But they cannot be obliged to do so legally.

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However, for any voucher sold after December 2, 2019, the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019 sets out various rules that you have the benefit of.

For example, they must be valid for a minimum of five years, you cannot be forced to use the whole voucher in one transaction, and you cannot be charged to change the name on the voucher.

It is important to note that some ‘vouchers’, such as pre-paid credit cards or One4All Vouchers (which are becoming increasingly popular as gifts and end of year bonuses from many businesses) are legally classed as ‘Electronic Money Cards’.

These cards are subject to different conditions and will often be subject to a monthly cost if funds are not used after a certain period of time. Though any costs levied by the relevant company must be proportional to their actual costs, and cannot be seen to be punitive.

If the retailer has gone out of business in the interim, it is unlikely that you will be entitled to any monies from the business or its liquidator. You should check with the retailer or their representatives on this.

For bigger businesses, they often have a specific point of contact. The person who gave you the card may also be able to ask for a ‘Charge Back’ if the voucher was purchased with a credit card.