Gift vouchers to have minimum expiry date of five years under proposed legislation

Gift vouchers to have minimum expiry date of five years under proposed legislation

Gift vouchers are to have a minimum expiry date of five years under proposed legislation backed by the Cabinet.

The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 also includes two other key provisions.

The first relating to an existing requirement to spend a gift voucher in full in a single transaction will be banned. For example, if a consumer has a voucher for €100 but wants to buy something for €50, the shop or provider will not be able to force that consumer to spend it all at once.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys

The Bill, it is envisaged, will also prohibit retailers from cancelling vouchers if there happens to be an incorrect name or spelling on a voucher – or charging additional fees to correct the name on the voucher. According to feedback from public consultation, it's a problem which regularly arises with airline vouchers if the name on the voucher doesn’t correspond exactly with the name on the passport.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said there was cross-party support for the legislation which she hopes to enact in early 2019.

By having a set five-year expiry date on all gift vouchers, we will provide certainty to everyone involved," she said. "This has been a real bugbear for people for many years and, of course, it’s particularly relevant now in the run-up to Christmas when many of us will buy gift vouchers for family and friends.

In June, the Government drafted a Bill providing for a five-year minimum expiry date for gift vouchers. It also includes a provision giving the minister power to set fees for the issue and replacement of gift vouchers and for ‘inactive balances’ on gift vouchers.

However, in the course of drafting the legislation, a number of legal issues emerged on foot of advice from the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Parliamentary Council which Humphreys said will "need further examination."

However, rather than delay the Bill further, the Government has decided to progress the legislation without the provision to ensure that the 5-year expiry date and other protections are in place for consumers as soon as possible. Ms Humphreys said she hopes to be in a position to introduce an amendment to deal with the fees issue at Committee or Report Stage.

The company behind the One4all multi-store gift cards, Gift Voucher Shop, has welcomed the Cabinet's support of the legislation.

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