Gift cards are a popular present at Christmas time, but Consumer Protection encourages consumers to understand the terms and conditions before adding gift cards to their shopping list.
MBIE Consumer Protection Manager Mark Hollingsworth says many people are unaware of the consumer risk associated with gift cards and how to protect themselves.
“Familiarising yourself with the gift card terms and conditions is important, and these are usually printed on the card or the retailer's website.
Some people are unaware that gift cards have an expiry date which means the recipient can't use the value after a certain time period. People may also not be aware the general agreement is that the store doesn't have to refund a voucher if the recipient doesn't want it.”
He says incidents with some high profile retailers this year have shown gift cards may not be honoured if a retailer goes out of business.
“Essentially the person with the voucher becomes an unsecured creditor and it can be hard to recover any value. We don't see this happening often, but it is a risk people need to consider if choosing to buy gift cards.”
Some gift cards will also not give change if the recipient doesn't spend the full amount.
“For this reason it may be worth considering buying several cards of smaller denominations to make up the gift amount, rather than one card with the full sum. Splitting the value like this also helps if the recipient loses one of the cards, as there is no automatic right for replacement.”
Everything you need to know before you buy gift vouchers and products purchased layby this Christmas, plus your rights once you've bought them, is outlined on the Consumer Protection Gift Vouchers and Laybys webpage.