Almost a third of consumers who purchase gift vouchers do not check the expiry date
- Only 50% check general terms and conditions of gift vouchers
20 December 2011
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) today issued top tips to consumers to consider when buying gift vouchers or gift cards as last-minute Christmas presents this year. This advice comes as research conducted by the NCA found that 36% of consumers surveyed plan to buy vouchers this Christmas.
Almost a third (32%) of those who purchase gift vouchers or gift cards do not check the expiry date, with only half checking the general terms and conditions of use.
Ann Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of the NCA, advised: "For many last-minute shoppers a gift voucher is a popular present as they give the recipient flexibility and choice. However, many vouchers have expiry dates - some last just six months, and maybe less if it is from an online deal site - so it is important to check these time limits before you buy.
“Finally, remember that if you purchase or receive a gift voucher and the company goes into examinership, liquidation or receivership, you will be treated as an 'unsecured creditor', so you may not be able to redeem your voucher if a company runs into difficulty.”
The NCA has issued the following top tips when using gift vouchers or gift cards.
Watch out for expiry dates
In many cases gift vouchers or cards are issued with an expiry date and will lose their value after the deadline. If giving a voucher this year, make sure you pass on this information to the recipient.
If you receive a voucher but the expiry date isn’t clear, you can contact the retailer or check the expiry date policies for over 140 retailers of popular outlets on www.nca.ie.
Be careful with vouchers that don't state an expiry date - this doesn't mean that they are open-ended, so check with the shop.
Check store policies on partial encashment of gift vouchers or cards
For unspent values on gift vouchers, you will often be issued with a new voucher to the value of the remaining amount if over €5, with unspent balances below that usually refunded in cash.
However, you are not automatically entitled to change and some traders will allow only a single encashment of a voucher, even if you don't use its full value, so check this out before you buy or use it.
Gift cards usually work like money cards, so any unspent amount will remain on the card for you to use it again.
Always use vouchers as soon as you can
If you have a voucher for a shop that has closed down, the voucher becomes a liability that the company has not met. This means that as the owner of the voucher, you are an 'unsecured creditor', and if a liquidator is appointed to wind up the company, you have to register your claim with them.
In practice, it will be difficult to get your voucher honoured, because your claim will only be considered once priority or secured creditors, such as Revenue, are paid in full.
If a shop changes ownership, the new owners do not have to honour your voucher, although it is worth checking with the retailer, as some take over the liabilities of the previous operator as part of the agreement.
Always use your voucher as soon as you can or buy a voucher that can be used in a number of different retail outlets to avoid this risk.
By using vouchers as soon as you can, you can also make sure that you don’t forget about a voucher and let it go out of date.
Mind your voucher or card carefully
If you lose a gift voucher, the issuing shop is under no obligation to replace it. It's just like losing cash - so always keep the voucher somewhere safe. But if the voucher was made out to you specifically and is not transferable to another person, the shop may be able to issue you a new one and cancel the original voucher.
This option is more common in the case of gift cards, where there is an electronic record of your credit and which may come with a PIN. It may be possible to have these cancelled with a new one issued, although there is often a fee to do this.
Consider multi-outlet vouchers or cards
If you buy gift vouchers or cards that can be used at more than one shop it minimises the risk of losing its value through a store closing down.
However, as many of these multi-outlet vouchers or cards operate on a gift card system, be sure to check if there are monthly or quarterly card management fees applied, as they may eat up the balance over time even where the card is not used.
Online group discount websites
These sites are becoming an increasingly popular way of buying presents for others. If you are using an online deal site, remember that the rules on the use of these vouchers vary according to the website you use and the business that is selling the deal.
Always check the terms and conditions before you buy a voucher and it is also a good idea to check out the business the deal applies to.
Read consumer tips about gift vouchers and gift cards on NCA.ie