Saturday 10 December 2016

Promotion: No time like the Christmas present to learn about your rights with gift vouchers

Published 21/12/2010 | 15:56

It’s Christmas time, but unfortunately before you get to the mistletoe and wine – you need to face all that traipsing around the shops trying desperately to find appropriate gifts for everyone on your shopping list.

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It’s often difficult to think of what presents to get certain people, especially if you’ve already done soaps, scented candles and socks once too often. A popular solution is to go for a gift voucher for their favourite shop.



Gift vouchers certainly offer flexibility and choice, however, as there is no regulation of gift vouchers in Irish law, stores are entitled to operate the terms and conditions they feel most appropriate.

Therefore, if you decide to go down this route for Christmas presents, read the National Consumer Agency’s (NCA) information on gift vouchers first. Here are a few tips to get you started:



Check the expiry date

In many cases gift vouchers are issued with an expiry date, so it is essential to check this before you buy and to pass on this important information with the gift!

To help you, the NCA has compiled a list of stores and the expiry date policies they operate. It isn’t comprehensive, but it does cover many of the biggest chains as well as other popular outlets.

Remember, too, that a retailer may be willing to make a good customer service gesture, even if a voucher is out of date, so it’s always worth checking in store if it can still be used!



Also, be careful with vouchers that don’t state an expiry date - this doesn’t mean that they are open-ended, so make sure you check the expiry date policy with the store every time you purchase a voucher.



What happens if you don’t spend it all in one go?

You may think that if you don’t spend your entire gift voucher at once, you should be entitled to change.

However, this is not automatically the case, as some traders will allow only a single encashment of a voucher, even if you don’t use the its full value.

Again, check the retailer’s terms and conditions to see what the policy is on partially used vouchers – some retailers will give you a new voucher as change if the amount is over €5, or cash if the amount is less than that.



What if the shop closes down, or changes ownership?

When a shop closes 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. For this reason, it is always worth trying to use a voucher promptly.

If a shop changes ownership, the new owners are not usually bound to honour your gift voucher, although it is always worthwhile to ask.

You may be able to minimise the risk of holding a gift voucher that you can no longer redeem in the store for which it was purchased by buying vouchers that can be used at more than one shop.

But, watch out for any management fees that are applied and that may eat up any balance as the months go by.



For more information, including a comprehensive list of gift voucher expiry dates, check out the gift vouchers section on the NCA’s website.



The NCA also has loads of other useful information to help you out this festive season, including toy safety tips and information on consumer law and shopping.

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