Gift Vouchers and the Law

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What do you buy for the pickiest of gift recipients, or for that person who appears to have everything? A gift voucher of course!  With the dust well and truly settled on celebrations such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, many of us are excitedly wondering when to use our treasured vouchers and are, naturally,more than conscious of those ever-looming expiry dates.
This article will deal with the law (or lack of!) surrounding gift vouchers and potential legislative changes which may come into effect at some stage in the future.

Current Legal Position
The difficulty with gift cards/vouchers at present is that there are very few rules which regulate the gift voucher industry and therefore, policies regarding such vouchers can vary from business to business. Some businesses may take a very flexible approach in respect of such vouchers, whereas others may take a stricter view.  Despite the lack of clarity surrounding this aspect of consumer law, there are some tips which a consumer should always bear in mind when both purchasing and gifting such vouchers:

– Know the expiry date – some businesses do not impose an expiry date whilst others may specify that the voucher is to expire after a relatively short period of time.

– Check terms and conditions before you buy a gift voucher or gift card.

– Check as to whether one must use the entirety of the value of the voucher in one transaction.

– It may sound obvious, but do not lose your gift voucher or gift card!

– When you buy a gift voucher, always ask for a receipt in case of a lost or stolen gift voucher.

Possible Future Legal Changes
In 2015, it was envisaged by the Government that a Consumer Rights Bill would ultimately come into effect in Irish law, affording consumers more protection when both purchasing and receiving giftvouchers.  One of the most notable aspects of the proposed legislative changes was the abolition of expiry dates on gift vouchers.  Unfortunately, such laws never came to pass but potentially may be introduced to the Irish legal system in the future.
Therefore, it is quite clear that there is currently no definitivelegal position in respect of gift vouchers in Ireland.  At present, each store/hotel/service provider has its own rules and regulations surrounding its specific gift voucher policy.
Until more certainty is introduced into Irish law in respect of the purchase and receipt of gift vouchers, consumers should pay heed to the above tips and use their vouchers as quickly as possible!

Know your rights!

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