Gift vouchers

From 2 December 2019, new legislation is in place which gives consumers more rights when it comes to gift vouchers.

The new legislation, the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019, brings a number of changes.

 

Minimum expiry date of five years Where there is an expiry date on a gift voucher, it should be at least five years.

You should be given the expiry date in a durable form, for example in writing or in an email, and you should also be given the date the gift voucher was bought.

You do not have to use the voucher in one go You do not have to spend the full value of the voucher in one transaction.

If there is a balance of more than €1 on a gift voucher, the business should refund you the difference in one of the following ways:

–          Cash

–          Electronic transfer (debit/credit card)

–          Another gift voucher (the expiry date will be the same as the original voucher)

It is up to the business which method of refund they use.

More than one gift voucher can be used in one go You can use more than one voucher at a time. For example, if something costs €100 and you have two €50 vouchers, you can use them both to pay.

Not all gift vouchers are covered by this legislation. The following are some of the main ones that are excluded.

Here is a guide to various types of vouchers and whether or not they are covered by the gift vouchers legislation.

Type of voucher Example Covered or excluded?
Shop voucher A voucher for a particular shop or department store, which is only accepted in those stores nationwide. Covered
Shopping centre gift card only for that centre A voucher or gift card for a particular shopping centre, that can only be used within that shopping centre or outlet. Covered
Shopping centre gift card that is not limited to that centre A voucher or gift card that can be used in that shopping centre or in other businesses elsewhere. Excluded
One-4-all gift cards An Post One-4-all gift cards can be redeemed in a wide range of retailers. These are considered electronic money cards. Excluded
Credit note If you return an item to a store and receive a voucher or credit note, it is not considered a gift voucher under the legislation. Excluded
Coupons A coupon you receive from a business directly or through an ad is not considered a gift voucher. Excluded
Loyalty programme vouchers Money vouchers you receive from a business as part of a loyalty programme you are a member of are not considered gift vouchers. Excluded
Online voucher for a deal website A voucher bought from a discount deal website for a product or service, that must be used

  • on a specific date, or
  • within three months
Excluded

Maintenance fees

Some gift cards have maintenance fees of approximately €3 per month which come into effect after a period of time. So if you give someone one of these gift cards worth €40, and they don’t use it for a year, maintenance charges at €3 a month could mean there is only €4 left on it after a year.

Lost vouchers

If you lose a gift voucher, the shop doesn’t have to replace it – it’s just like losing cash.

Did you Know?
If the voucher was made out to you specifically and is non-transferable, the shop may be able to issue a new voucher and cancel the original. It may be worth contacting the shop and asking if this is possible.
Top Tip
Remember consumer rights apply to gift cards just like any other item. So if the card is faulty and doesn’t work when you go to use it, you can return it for a replacement or refund.

Examples

1. I bought a gift voucher for my husband and it has an expiry date of 12 months does the new five year rule apply?

If you bought the voucher on or after 2 December 2019, the gift voucher must have an expiry date of at least five years starting on the day you bought it.

A gift voucher sold by a business with an expiry date of less than five years will be deemed to have a five year expiry date. Also, the business must inform you of any expiry date on a durable medium, for example, on paper or email.  The paper or email must include:

  • the expiry date of the gift voucher and the date it was bought or
  • state that there is no expiry date, if that’s the case.

2. I bought a gift voucher for my daughter, just looking at it now and I can’t find an expiry date – should it be on the gift voucher?

The expiry date does not have to be printed on the actual gift voucher. However, the business must tell you if an expiry date applies to the gift voucher on a durable medium, for example, on paper or email. The paper or email must include:

  • the expiry date of the gift voucher and the date it was bought, or
  • state that there is no expiry date, if that’s the case.

3. I got a present of a voucher for my 60th It is for a considerable amount of money – do I have to use it in one go?

You do not have to spend the full amount of the gift voucher in one go.  If you only use part of the gift voucher and there is a balance of more than €1 left, the business can refund you in one of the following ways:

  • cash
  • electronic transfer (credit/debit card)
  • gift voucher – the expiry date will be the same as the original gift voucher.

4. I bought a gift voucher a week before the new laws came into place – will these new rules apply?

 The new laws only apply to gift vouchers that were sold on or after the 2 December 2019.

5. I was given a gift voucher for my birthday and the spelling of my name is wrong on the voucher – will there be a fee for amending the name?

No. After 2 December 2019, businesses cannot charge a fee for changing or amending the name on a gift voucher.

Online deal websites

Deal websites are platforms that let you buy vouchers for goods, services or experiences from other businesses, e.g. a mattress, meal or beauty treatment. When buying a voucher on a deal website, you pay the deal website the price and redeem the voucher with a third party business for the good or service. The new gift vouchers legislation does not apply to these type of vouchers.  However, you still have rights when you buy goods and services.

Goods

Generally, when you buy something from a deal website and you do not have to go to a third party website to redeem the voucher, you are entering into a contract with that deal website for that item. It is the same as buying an item from any online retailer and the same rights apply. More information about your rights when you buy online is available in our Buying Online section.

However, this can vary between deal websites and items bought so always read the terms and conditions.

Top Tip
If anything goes wrong, check your bank statement. Your contract is usually with the website that took your money.

Services

When you buy a voucher from a deal website for a service you are entering into two contracts; the first with the deal website for a valid voucher and the second with the service provider for the service.

Contract 1:

When you buy a voucher from a deal website, you enter into a contract with the website for the voucher. Once you receive a valid voucher the website may be seen to have fulfilled their part of the contract.

If the voucher is not valid then you have the same consumer rights as you do when you buy something online or in store – the right to a replacement or refund if the voucher does not work through no fault of your own.

As these vouchers are usually bought online, you also have the same 14 day right to cancel as you do when shopping online.

Contract 2:

The second contract is with the business supplying the service. You have the same consumer rights as you do when you buy a service directly from the business – the right to expect that:

  • The service you paid for is provided with proper care and attention
  • The business providing it has the appropriate skills to do the job
  • Any materials they use in the work are sound and fit for their purpose
  • Any goods they supply to you as part of the service should be of acceptable quality too

If this is not the case then you have the right to redress – have the business either fix the problem or give you a full or partial refund. Under consumer legislation it is the supplier of the service who is responsible for providing redress. You can find more information on what you are entitled to in our contracts and services section.

Top Tip
It is important to read the terms and conditions with vouchers you buy on deal websites. These can set out the expiry date, any restrictions, cancellation procedures, how to book etc. Remember when you buy a voucher, you are bound by the terms and conditions whether or not you have read them.

Find out where you stand if the company goes out of business or changes ownership, click here for more information.

Did you buy a voucher online? Check out our information on Buying Online for more on your rights.

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