Ban on expiry date for gift cards due before Cabinet
A ban on expiry dates for gift cards is among a range of new consumer protection measures expected to be agreed by the Government in the coming weeks.
Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton is to seek approval for new laws that will ensure consumers who get goods as gifts have the same rights as the purchasers of the goods.
And for the first time people who downloaded music, videos, apps and other digital content will be entitled to the same protection as those who physically buy DVDs, CDs or other similar items.
The proposals were first mooted last summer but writing in today's Irish Independent, Mr Bruton reveals he is now in a position to present a full plan to his Cabinet colleagues.
He says there is "a basic imbalance between a consumer - who might make only a small number of purchases every year - and the retailer".
The issue of expiry dates on gift cards has been a long-running issue which has received significant publicity in recent months. A survey by the National Consumer Agency found that 48pc of consumers have let a voucher lapse in the past.
Mr Bruton described the situation whereby retailers can refuse to honour vouchers after a certain period as "hugely annoying and deeply unfair". Under the new laws to be included in the Consumer Rights Bill gift vouchers will have to be honoured for an unlimited period.
Mr Bruton will also look to strengthen rights for consumers purchasing services, including a right for the first time to have a substandard service remedied or refunded.
However, with no ban on expiry dates for gift cards given as presents this Christmas, consumers have been warned to use their vouchers quickly.
Some vouchers and cards expire after just six months, with amounts being deducted from their value for every month over the use-by date.
Irish consumers currently spend €600m on gift cards and vouchers each year.
The market leader is the One4All card, which is operated by the An Post subsidiary The Gift Voucher Shop and is accepted in more than 7,000 outlets. But it is being challenged by Retail Excellence Ireland which has launched a multi-store gift card called FromMe2You.
However, not everyone will spend their voucher. Chief executive of the Consumers' Association lobby group, Dermott Jewell, warned shoppers not to delay spending their vouchers and cards.
"The key is to use them rather than put them away. If you do put them away set a reminder on your phone to tell you to use them before they expire. Some expire in as little as six months."