Tuesday 20 November 2018

#HaveYourSay: New law to introduce minimum expiry date for gift vouchers

Stock image
Stock image
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Business Minister Heather Humphreys is to seek Government approval for a new law introducing a minimum expiry date of five years for gift vouchers.

At present, retailers are free to set their own terms and conditions with some vouchers and gift cards expiring after six or 12 months. Some shops deduct value for every month over the use-by date.

Consumer organisations and Opposition politicians have been calling for regulation in the area for years.

Plans to regulate gift vouchers, first put forward by former business minister Richard Bruton in 2015, stalled as the Government waited for expected European Union laws in the area.

However, the EU directives have not yet materialised and the Irish Independent has learned that Ms Humphreys plans to proceed with new Irish regulations that would set a minimum expiry date of five years.

A source said the plans were at an "advanced stage" and it's understood Ms Humphreys intends to bring the proposals to Government within weeks.

Mr Bruton's proposed 2015 law was put out for public consultation but the European Commission announced plans for two new directives in the area, which led to the postponing of the Irish legislation.

The view was taken that there was cross-over between the Irish and EU plans and there was little point in changing the law here if it would have to be amended when the EU directives came into force.

Plans are at advanced stage: Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Plans are at advanced stage: Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Late last year, the Social Democrats put forward its own proposed legislation that would bring in a five-year minimum expiry period.

Its co-leader Catherine Murphy said at the time that the current situation amounted to an "unfair" policy of "use it or lose it" by retailers.

However, the practice of using expiry dates isn't followed by every shop. McKenna Man in Dundalk last month honoured a IR£60 voucher sold in 1995.

Staff member Conor McKenna told the 'Argus' newspaper: "We've never had an expiry date on our vouchers because if we didn't honour them, customers wouldn't come back."

Separately, Communications Minister Denis Naughten is expected to seek Cabinet approval to extend a scheme to help households that are in receipt of the carer's allowance to cut their heating bills.

The Warmer Homes Energy Scheme provides free energy efficiency upgrades.

It is understood that Mr Naughten intends to expand the scheme to households where the carer in receipt of the allowance lives with the resident who is being cared for.

The €24m scheme already covers households in receipt of the family income supplement, fuel allowance, one-parent family payments or those getting the domiciliary care allowance.

Irish Independent

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