Many people will have received a gift voucher over the Christmas period, but it is important to know your rights when using a gift card in the months afterwards.
A gift voucher is a voucher given as a present that you can exchange for goods or services. There are many benefits to gift vouchers, but there are also some risks.
Too often, people find an unused voucher that has gone out of date at the back of a drawer, or they lose it causing them to miss out on the benefits of the voucher.
Irish law introduced extra protections for gift vouchers sold on or after 2 December 2019, under the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019.
When you buy a gift voucher, you are entering into a contract with the trader. The voucher is like cash you hand over in exchange for goods and services.
In the past, traders were free to set terms and conditions, for example, how and when the voucher can be used, as long as they didn’t conflict with your consumer rights. Both you and the trader have to follow these terms.
The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019 sets out rules for gift vouchers sold after 2 December 2019.
The rules state that:
- Gift vouchers must have no expiry date or be valid for at least five years.
- Traders cannot specify that a gift voucher is spent in one transaction.
- Traders cannot charge a fee to change the name on a gift voucher (if you have to register a name on the voucher).
- If the balance remaining on a gift voucher is more than €1 after you buy something with it, a trader must reimburse the balance to you. They can give you cash, make an electronic transfer or give you another gift voucher.
However, the rules do not apply to vouchers that 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.
Vouchers issued as part of a customer loyalty or promotion scheme, as a refund for goods you returned to a trader or vouchers and gift cards sold before 2 December 2019 also do not have to comply to these rules.
Know the terms before you buy
You should check the small print before buying a voucher for the expiry date, requirement to book or reserve by a certain date, validity dates or times, exactly what the voucher entitles you to and information about how the voucher can be redeemed.
You should also check for other important information such as:
- What happens to any remaining balance?
- Can you transfer the voucher to someone else?
- What happens if you lose or damage the voucher?
If you are not sure about any of the terms, you should ask the trader before you buy.
If you buy a gift voucher or gift card for someone else, make sure that you give them the terms and conditions and the receipt with the voucher or card.