WE used to buy gift vouchers directly from the shop or business where they would be redeemed, but it is now commonplace for department stores and supermarkets to have gift cards for other places on display near the till.
Last year, Consumer Protection received 74 complaints about gift cards/vouchers, with 30 coming in the first quarter of the year, post-Christmas. We regularly highlight some potential problems with gift cards or vouchers.
One we frequently warn of is business collapse, which became a reality for many when electronics retailer Dick Smith went into receivership on January 5.
Holders of Dick Smith gift cards, many of whom received theirs as a Christmas present, became unsecured creditors when voluntary administrators were appointed. Claims for the outstanding dollar value must be lodged via a hotline or email address: 1300 853 481 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If payment was made by credit card or by selecting “credit” with a debit card, Dick Smith gift card buyers can contact their credit card provider and request a chargeback.
However, this opportunity does not exist for those who paid by cash or Eftpos
Dick Smith gift cards bought from Coles, Woolworths or Big W can be exchanged for a gift card of equal value for that particular supermarket or store, subject to proof of purchase being provided as part of a redemption process.
Consumer Protection’s new position is that people should consider only buying gift vouchers with credit cards or by selecting “credit” on a debit card.
We also want the community to think about whether it is better to give cash as a present or a gift card that can be redeemed at a number of outlets (some shopping centres sell these vouchers and they can be used at a variety of stores within the complex).
Cash may seem less personalised than a gift card or voucher but the receiver is guaranteed to be able to spend the money and will not be restricted by terms and conditions or an expiry date.
For example, when Laura Ashley’s Australian clothing and home wares stores went into administration on January 7 the requirements for redeeming a gift card changed. Laura Ashley gift card holders are now required to spend double the face value to redeem it e.g. spend $200 in store to redeem a $100 voucher.
Sometimes the prospect of a business winding up will be predicted in the media, so it is worthwhile keeping up with what is happening in the marketplace. Staying informed could save you dollars by alerting you ahead of you buying a gift card from a troubled retailer, or letting you know that a gift card you have received could soon become worthless.
Generally, we recommend that anyone who receives a gift card should redeem it as soon as possible after receipt. It is believed Australian retailers make hundreds of millions of dollars from unclaimed vouchers every year, with consumer surveys suggesting in excess of three out of 10 people forget to use their gift card before the expiry date. Download Consumer Protection’s free app iShopWA and use its gift voucher expiry date reminder function.
Those with complaints relating to gift cards should first try to resolve the issues with the business in question and in the case of unresolved disputes contact Consumer Protection by email at email@example.com or by calling 1300 30 40 54.