UKGCVA: Ireland’s Proposed Gift Card Expiry Ban Too Broad
A proposed law in Ireland, which would ban expiration dates on gift cards and vouchers, too broadly defines what products are to be regulated and could have negative effects on issuers and consumers, an industry group says. The UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA)—some members of which operate in Ireland—recently sent a letter to Irish regulators in response to the proposed Consumer Rights Bill, a wide-ranging consumer protection law proposed in May and planned to go into effect in mid-2016.
In its letter, the UKGCVA argues that the proposal’s definition of a “gift voucher” is too wide, and thus could be interpreted to apply to gift cards or similar products already regulated by existing laws, leading to confusion and conflicting requirements. Additionally, the proposed bill fails to account for vouchers provided for particular purposes, such as promotional vouchers and those issued for use at a particular place or event that runs for a finite period of time. Banning expiration dates on such vouchers is “not a commercially viable option” in all cases, the UKGCVA contends. For instance, the price of a particular good or service offered by a voucher might be fixed for a limited time. Meanwhile, promotional vouchers meant to raise awareness and increase visits to a Web or retail outlet are not meant to be permanent. “It would be commercially unreasonable and ultimately unviable for a business to be required to accept vouchers for an indefinite period,” the association writes. Any costs incurred by such a requirement could be passed onto the consumer in the form of a fee, or the voucher could be withdrawn from the market completely, the trade group suggests. Expiration dates also help gift card issuers quantify their liability at any given time and act as a tool to deter counterfeiters, the association notes. Rather than banning expiration dates, the UKGCVA said it would advocate requiring clear and transparent disclosure of the expiry in cases where one applies.
Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation—the agency that introduced the consumer protection bill—currently is reviewing comments on the proposal, which were due on Aug. 28. The department said it will assess input from businesses and consumers before issuing a final proposal.