Government approves General Scheme of Bill to introduce Minimum Five Year Expiry Date on Gift Vouchers

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D. today announced that the Government has approved the General Scheme of the Unfair Contract Terms (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018, which will introduce a minimum expiry date of five years for gift vouchers.

Minister Humphreys said:

“I am delighted that Government has today approved the drafting of this Bill, which I believe can make a real difference to consumers. At the moment, Ireland doesn’t have clear rules on the expiry dates of gift vouchers, which time and time again results in needless confusion and frustration. In some cases, individual vouchers aren’t even clear about their own cut-off point.

“Research undertaken by the National Consumer Agency in 2013 found that almost half of those surveyed had let a gift voucher expire at some point without using it. It is extremely frustrating if a person, or somebody close to them, has paid in cash for a voucher only to be told it is no longer valid a relatively short time afterwards. While many retailers do honour vouchers in these instances, others do not. This simply isn’t fair and needs to change.”

The Minister continued:

“I know the issues of fees is a bone of contention to consumers. I am aware of cases where fees of as much as €3.00 per month apply to gift vouchers after 12 months. This means that a voucher for €25 can rendered completely worthless after 20 months. The Bill will deal with fees as well as expiry dates.”

The Minister concluded:

“Countless gift vouchers are lost or go out of date every year – let’s face it; we’ve all been there. This is a relatively straightforward Bill and it’s an issue that affects us all, so I’m hopeful that I can secure cross-party support in the Oireachtas to ensure this legislation is enacted by the end of the year.”

Ends

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department also has a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

 

 

Additional Information

The Bill provides that the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation will have the power to regulate certain gift voucher fees after a consultation with consumer and business interests. The Minister intends to undertake the necessary consultation promptly.

 

Background

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published the draft Scheme of a comprehensive Consumer Rights Bill for public consultation on 25 May 2015. In addition to Parts dealing with the consolidation and updating of the law on the supply of goods, digital content and services and on unfair contract terms, the draft Scheme contained a number of provisions for the regulation of gift vouchers, including a proposed ban on expiry dates in contracts for the supply of gift vouchers.

The responses to the gift card provisions raised a substantial number of issues, including concerns expressed by businesses about the impact of a complete prohibition on expiry dates.

The Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill had to take account of current European Union legislative proposals for Directives on consumer contracts for the supply of digital content and consumer contracts for the online and other distance sale of goods. These proposals, which were announced in May 2015 and published in December 2015, overlap very substantially with two of the main parts of the draft Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill.

Given the slower than expected progress on these two EU proposals, the Minister is proceeding with a standalone proposal on the issue of the expiry dates for gift vouchers.

 

Current Legislation

There is no regulation of expiry dates of gift vouchers at present.

Overall, there is no specific legislation dealing with gift vouchers, however, gift vouchers supplied to consumers are subject to the provisions of general consumer protection legislation, in particular the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices and of the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995).

Gift vouchers that cover a wide range of traders and retailers and come within the definition of “electronic money” in the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011 are subject to the provisions of those Regulations.

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