A company which supplies pre-paid gift cards for use in major shopping centres, including Blanchardstown and Dundrum, has defended imposing a €3 a month debit if the card has not been used up in 12 months.
A Sunday Independent reader who received a Blanchardstown Centre gift card as a wedding present more than a year ago was shocked to discover that money had been debited from the card because she had not used up the full balance.
The pre-paid MasterCard products look like a traditional debit card and can be used to buy items in the same way.
When the card is presented by consumers, the retailer swipes it through their normal payments card machine. If the funds are available on the card, the payment is authorised and the shopper signs the receipt.
PerfectCard, the Wicklow-based company which supplies the cards, has defended the €3 a month charge.
"As per our terms and conditions after a period of 13 months a monthly fee of €3 will be applied to cards that have a balance. The service fee is not a hidden fee," they said in a statement.
They said the charge is displayed in a number of locations including the back of the card, on the wallet that the card is issued in and on the website www.perfectcard.ie.
A spokesperson said the charge was justified because they provide a fully staffed customer service desk during centre hours and a non-automated service during office hours to answer any questions.
There is also a 24/7 telephone helpline to check balances and report lost or stolen cards.
"The card has over a year to be spent without incurring any service fee. The majority of card holders (over 95 per cent) are not impacted by the service fee. We are a privately owned Irish company, that employs over 26 members of staff with the number increasing substantially at Christmas, who provide excellent customer service and support to our customers."
They said that all monies on customers' cards are in a safeguarded account.
"That means if we go out of business in the morning, the customer will still have the full use of the funds on their card. This is unlike other companies that have gone out of business where customers' vouchers have become worthless," a spokesperson said.
"We have over one million cards in circulation since we began trading in 2007 and we have received less than 200 complaints.
"We believe the majority of our customers are happy with the service we provide. The fees are structures to encourage people to go to the centre and spend their gift cards.
"Also when the card expires, if there are remaining funds on the card the card holder has a period of time in which to contact us and reclaim the remaining balance on their card," they added.