| | Advanced Search

 

Finneran: The Rockets’ Red Glare—Finneran: The Rockets' Red Glare

The Cellar: For the Love of Cabernet (Franc)—One of my favorite grape varietals is Cabernet…

From RI to Worcester to Lithuania, Baron Faces Uphill Battle to NBA Dream—From RI to Worcester to Lithuania, Baron Faces…

Worcester PopUp to Host Artist Reception—The Worcester PopUp will host an artist reception…

UMass Ranked MA’s Biggest Party School—NEW: UMass Ranked MA's Biggest Party School

See Massachusetts in “50 States of Legos”—NEW: See Massachusetts in "50 States of Legos"

Monfredo: Worcester…A City on the Move—Monfredo: Worcester...A City on the Move

Relive The 80’s at Mechanics Hall With Your Woo Card—The weekend is fast approaching, and GoLocalWorcester brings…

Patriots Training Camp Position Battles & Players to Watch—Patriots Training Camp Position Battles & Players to…

Clark University Receives $1.45 Million from the John Templeton Foundation—Clark University was awarded a $1.45 million grant…

 
 

LEGAL MATTERS: Gift Cards—What Are Your Rights?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

 

Gift cards are one of the easiest ways to allow a friend or loved one to shop on your dime. Or for you to shop on theirs. But how protected are they? Photo: 401(K) 2012/flickr

A gift card can seem to be the perfect solution for the person who has everything. Many buyers, however, found themselves with far less than they bargained for after retailers started placing expiration dates on cards and packing them with unknown fees. After years of complaints from consumers, the federal government and states took action.

In 2009, Congress passed the federal Credit CARD Act which acts as a floor – setting minimum requirements for gift certificates and cards. States can exceed these laws and many do. Under the federal law, gift certificates issued after August 22, 2010 cannot expire for five years. Note, though, that if you do not use the card within 12 months you can be charged an inactivity fee.

Are you protected by local laws?

In Massachusetts, gift cards are redeemable for cash after 90 percent of the value has been redeemed, although they expire seven years from the purchase date. Bank cards and phone cards are exempt. This is also the case in Rhode Island. Several years ago, Rhode Island passed a strong, pro-consumer law barring expiration dates and post-sale maintenance fees on gift cards. Unfortunately, the law specifically excludes free award, loyalty or promotional cards and phone cards and bank cards. Consumers with reloadable gift cards with a balance of $5 or less can elect to take the balance in cash. Connecticut law mirrors Rhode Island law, barring store-issued cards from having an expiration date or inactivity fee but placing no limit on bank cards.

When you are out of luck

Many retailers offer no protection if the card is lost or destroyed. And, in tough economic times like these, it is possible that the business from which you purchased the card, may wind up out of business. If a retailer files for bankruptcy protection there is a possibility that the gift card may not be honored or there may be limitations place on its use.

One safe alternative to the gift cars is to make a date to take the gift recipient shopping. Not only is it an opportunity to spend some quality time with a loved one, but there is no substitute for being present when the recipient selects the perfect gift.

The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

Susan G. Pegden is a litigation associate with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins in Providence.  She is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Rhode Island Association of Justice (RIAJ) and a member of the Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association.

Sean P. Feeney is a partner with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Feeney is a former special counsel to the City of Providence, military prosecutor with the United States Marine Corps and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California.

 

Related Articles

 

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

You Must be Logged In to Comment

Tracker Pixel for Entry