Making Cents: Play your cards right when giving gift vouchers this Christmas

As you probably have heard by now, changes to the rules concerning gift vouchers in Ireland came into effect earlier this month, giving consumers more rights when it comes to these popular items.

Making Cents: Play your cards right when giving gift vouchers this Christmas

As you probably have heard by now, changes to the rules concerning gift vouchers in Ireland came into effect earlier this month, giving consumers more rights when it comes to these popular items.

As of December 2, gift vouchers must have a minimum expiry date of five years, more than one gift voucher can be used in one go and consumers don’t have to spend the full value of a voucher in one transaction.

If there is a balance of more than €1 on a voucher after you have used it, the business should refund you the difference either in cash, on to a debit or credit card or with another gift voucher. Just to be aware, the consumer doesn’t have the choice in this situation, it is up to the business which method of refund they use.

Also a business cannot refuse a gift voucher because it is not in your name, or charge you to change/amend the name on a gift voucher. This is all good news for consumers and the rules have come into effect in time for the peak gift voucher purchasing time of the year.

‘This legislation gives consumers valuable additional protections and in the run up to Christmas it will be of considerable benefit to anyone who buys or receives a gift voucher,” Chairperson of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Isolde Goggin, says.

But there are still a number of things consumers need to watch out for. The first is that the new legislation only applies to vouchers bought since the rules came into effect, it does not apply retrospectively to older gift cards and vouchers. So if you bought a voucher on or before December 1, these rules do not apply to it.

Similarly, if you have been given a voucher or card that was purchased before then, be aware that the voucher may be limited in ways that are no longer allowed — be it a shorter expiry or limitation on use.

If you are purchasing gift vouchers now or in the future, there are a number of conditions that consumers need to be aware of, which are still perfectly legal. The first is that businesses are still allowed to apply maintenance fees.

Some gift cards have monthly fees which come into effect after a period of time. So if you give someone one of these gift cards worth €50, and they don’t use it for a year, maintenance charges at €3 a month could mean there is only €14 left on it after a year.

The second thing to bear in mind is that losing a gift voucher is like losing cash, the shop doesn’t have to replace it. That is not to say they won’t depending on the circumstances — it may be worth contacting the shop and asking if this is possible, particularly if it is in your name. But you have no legal entitlement and so should treat gift vouchers as carefully as you would cash.

Consumers should also be aware not all gift vouchers are covered by this legislation. Vouchers that are not covered include those bought on deal websites such as Groupon — platforms that let you buy vouchers for goods, services or experiences from other businesses.

“Online vouchers from a deal website are typically sold by a third party, which allows access to goods and services for a limited period of time,” a CCPC spokesperson explains.

If you choose to buy gift vouchers from one of these websites, you should be aware that these vouchers are exempt from the new legislation if they are sold for a discounted price, for a specific date or if they are valid for three months or less.

That is not to put you off using voucher from such sites as gifts — they can offer a low cost way to give a loved one a luxury treat or new experience. But read the terms and conditions of the voucher you buy carefully and make sure you communicate them to the recipient. The problem with coverage of new legislation like this is it can leave unwitting consumers with the idea that these rules now apply to all vouchers — they don’t.

Always check when purchasing and make sure the intended user knows exactly how the voucher can be used - that way the full value of the gift can be enjoyed as intended.

Deal of the Week

NOW TV is currently offering 50% or more off a number of its tv packages, with sports, cinema and children’s package options. As we approach one of the busiest periods in the Premier League calendar, football fans can purchase a two month Sky Sports pass for €39, down from a normal price of €78.

Customers can also get a two-month Sky Cinema Pass & Entertainment Pass for only €25 — these would normally be €15 each per month. There are also two-month for- the-price-of-one options for children’s tv and entertainment packages — for €7 and €15 respectively.

NOW TV does not involve contracts. If you sign up for one of these packages they will roll on automatically after your pre-paid period at €15.00 a month for Entertainment, €15.00 a month for Sky Cinema, €7.00 a month for Kids and €39.00 for Sky Sports but you can stop renewal at any time

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