Almost half of people receiving vouchers or gift cards as Christmas presents do not check the conditions of use.
This is according to research carried out on behalf of the National Consumer Agency (NCA).
It comes as the NCA’s helpline received 707 calls relating to gift vouchers and gift cards in the last year.
Almost half (46%) of the calls related to the terms and conditions. Others related to companies going into liquidation, problems with redress, misplaced vouchers, and unused balances.
Karen O’Leary, director of public awareness and financial education with the NCA, said people should ask some questions before choosing a gift card or gift voucher.
“There are a few simple questions that you can ask before you buy a gift voucher or gift card. Find out when it is due to expire, what happens if you don’t spend the total value of the voucher in one go, or if the voucher gets lost.”
The NCA advises that consumers should always ask a trader what their policy is on partially used vouchers. Some traders will give a voucher as change if the unused amount is over €5, or cash if the amount is less.
However, consumers are not automatically entitled to change. Some traders will only allow for the voucher to be spent in one go, even if the full amount is not used.
The consumer watchdog highlighted a list of things people should watch out for when buying gift cards or vouchers:
* Watch out for expiry dates — in many cases gift vouchers or cards have an expiry date and consumers may not be able to use them after that date. If the expiry date is not clear or there is none on the voucher or gift card, find out what the expiry date is;
* Always check the terms and conditions before buying a voucher or gift card — consumers may be shocked to find some traders will have a condition that says if the voucher is partially used, the remaining balance is void;
* Take care of vouchers or gift cards — if they are lost, the trader who issued it is under no obligation to replace it;
* Check store policies to see what rules apply to balances left on vouchers or cards;
* Check if any charges apply. This may include an inactivity or maintenance fee, which may come into effect if the voucher is not used within a certain time.
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