New national gift card laws will come into effect tomorrow (1 November 2019) to help protect consumers from losing an estimated $70 million on gift cards each year.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the Australian Consumer Law was amended to ensure a consistent approach to gift cards, no matter where in Australia they are purchased.
“Gift cards are big money in Australia, both for their convenience and flexibility, but unfortunately an estimated $70 million is lost each year due to expiry dates,” Mr Hillyard said.
“To help prevent such losses and to make gift cards fairer for consumers, federal, state and territory consumer agencies worked together to introduce new rules around gift card expiry dates and post-purchase fees and charges.
“With the exception of a few limited-use gift cards and vouchers, all gift cards bought from 1 November 2019 will automatically come with a minimum three-year expiry period, with the expiry date to be clearly marked on the card.
“Even if traders state an earlier expiry date, it will be invalid and consumers will be entitled to the mandatory three-year period.
“It will also be illegal for traders to charge post-purchase fees or administration charges that will reduce the value of the gift card, such as activation, account keeping and balance enquiry fees.
“However, traders will be able to charge fees they would normally charge as part of a transaction, such as overseas transaction fees, booking fees, or fees charged to replace a lost, stolen or damaged card.
“They will also be able to charge an upfront fee for the purchase of the gift card. Whether consumers choose to accept an upfront fee and proceed with the purchase will be up to them.”
There are some exceptions to the new rules, including:
· Cards or vouchers for a good or service available for a limited time where the card or voucher expires at the end of that period. For example, entry to a concert or museum exhibition;
· Cards or vouchers supplied to a purchaser of goods or services as part of a temporary marketing promotion. For example, a $50 wine voucher valid for one month that is mailed to a consumer as a free bonus with a purchased item (i.e. it was not part of the purchase offer);
· Cards or vouchers donated free of charge for promotional purposes. For example, a local shopping centre has a one-day marketing promotion where each visitor to the centre on that day is handed a $20 gift card that is valid for use at any store in the centre for that day only;
· Cards or vouchers sold for a particular good or service that is below the market value of the good or service (genuine discount);
· Cards or vouchers supplied as part of an employee rewards program; and
· Cards or vouchers given as a bonus in connection with a purchase of a good or service for use in the same business (customer loyalty programs).