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New rules to ensure gift vouchers are valid for five years kick in on Monday

From next week, shoppers will be able to use more than one voucher per transaction.

Gift vouchers will now not expire until five years after purchase.
Gift vouchers will now not expire until five years after purchase.
Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

NEW LAWS THAT that will ensure gift vouchers are valid for at least five years after they are sold are to kick in on Monday.

The new law will place a ban on contract terms that require gift vouchers to be spent in one transaction. It will also be prohibited to place a limit on the number of vouchers a shopper can use in one transaction.

In addition, there will also be a ban on the cancellation of gift vouchers, or the imposition of charges by airlines, where the name of the gift voucher recipient differs from the name on the passport. 

The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018, proposed by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, aims to address the lack of regulation in the gift voucher market.

Currently, there is no minimum expiry date on gift vouchers under law, with some retailers issuing expiry dates on their vouchers after a short period of time.

Lack of regulations 

The lack of regulation in the gift voucher market has caused confusion among consumers, said the minister, many of whom were losing out because of unknown expiry dates. 

The new rules come into operation on Monday 2 December – also known as Cyber Monday – a popular time for shoppers to snap up deals before Christmas after today’s Black Friday. 

In relation to the provision which sets out that a consumer no longer has to use the voucher in one transaction, the retailer will now be required to reimburse any remaining balance of more than one euro by way of cash, electronic transfer or another voucher, where the voucher cannot be used more than once.

“I am very pleased to be able to bring the five-year expiry date and a number of other important protections for consumers into effect from Monday,” the minister said. ” I am particularly pleased to do so at the start of the Christmas period when many of us will buy or receive gift vouchers.”

shutterstock_1372848245 Source: Shutterstock/Ri luck

“Consumers should not find themselves unable to use gift vouchers given to them by family members or friends because of unreasonably short expiry periods imposed by gift voucher issuers. Many gift vouchers until now have had expiry periods of just one or two years and in some cases it has been as little as six months. As of Monday anyone who receives a gift voucher will have the certainty that it will be valid for at least five years,” she said. 

Humphreys said short expiry periods are not the only way in which consumers have been
treated unfairly by certain gift voucher providers.

“Some businesses have required consumers to spend a voucher in full in a single transaction. This meant if you have a restaurant voucher for €100 and your meal came to €80, you were prevented from getting change or a voucher with the balance of €20,” she said. 

The minister said it is not uncommon for people to get more than one gift voucher, particularly at Christmas time. 

“So for example if a person wanted to use two €50 vouchers together to buy a product for €100, they were prevented from doing so,” the minister said, adding that this has now been changed. 

“It is estimated that every year consumers in Ireland lose millions in un-redeemed or expired vouchers. These measures will protect consumers and will help to ensure the value of the voucher you buy for your loved one this Christmas ends up in their pocket and not somebody else’s,” said Humphreys.

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