Citizen’s Corner – Gift card rights

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Stock Photo: Joanna Kosinska/Unsplash.

Q. My mother was given some gift vouchers for Christmas and is worried that she needs to spend them straight away or they will expire. I know there was a change around the rules for vouchers not long ago, can you tell me what the current situation is?

Thanks for getting in touch. I’m sure lots of people wondering the same thing after the holidays.

You will be glad to hear that gift vouchers sold after December 2019 must have no expiry date or be valid for at least five years. Furthermore, a seller cannot force customers to use an entire gift voucher in one go.

They also can’t charge a fee for changing the name on a gift voucher, and, if there is more than €1 left on your gift voucher after a purchase, the seller must refund you the balance. They can do this with cash, by transferring it electronically to your bank, or by giving you another gift voucher.

There are however some exceptions to the rules around gift cards. The rules currently do not cover vouchers that: can only be used to buy goods and services at a discounted price, from a specific seller on a set date, or for three months or less (such as deal websites like Groupon or Pigsback); cards that are part of a customer loyalty or promotion scheme; or ones that are gotten as a refund for returned goods.

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We would always advise, whether you are buying or have received a voucher, to check the small print. A couple of things in particular are important to watch out for, including: the expiry date of a card; whether it requires booking or reservation by a certain date (in hotels or restaurants for example); if it is only valid at certain times (‘Monday to Friday between 5pm and 7pm’); and terms of use, including if the gift card can be used instore or online only.

Other sometimes problematic areas can be around what a gift card or voucher actually entitles you to (for example, a one-night stay in a hotel with breakfast included), what happens to any remaining balance on a card, and what happens if a card is lost or damaged.

Limerick Citizens Information Centre answer your questions in the Limerick Post. If you have a question relating to social welfare issues, tenant or consumer rights, immigration, money, tax, housing, or employment, email [email protected], call 0818 075 780, or drop in to Riverstone House, Henry Street, V93 T28.