Monday, October 20, 2008

NEW GIFT CARD RULES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

MOST GIFT CARDS WILL NOT
EXPIRE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

New regulations banning expiry dates and fees on most gift cards sold in the province will better protect consumers’ interests, Solicitor General John van Dongen announced today.

“People buying gift cards will now get what they pay for, because the value of a gift card can no longer be eroded by fees or handling charges,” van Dongen said. “We consulted with both consumers and businesses, and a strong majority support the changes.”

“These regulations will ensure customers have the information they need to make prudent decisions when purchasing and using gift cards,” said Max Logan, B.C. director for the Retail Council of Canada.

As of Nov. 1, 2008, the Public Safety and Solicitor General (Gift Card Certainty) Statutes Amendment Act and regulations will:

  • Require businesses to fully inform consumers at the time of purchase how gift cards can be redeemed, used and replaced.
  • Prohibit gift cards that expire, unless they are issued or sold for charitable or promotional purposes, or if they are for a specific good or service such as a haircut, because it is not expected that a business would make the same product or service available indefinitely.
  • Prohibit handling charges or fees, except in limited circumstances, such as if a gift card is personalized with a photograph.

Some pre-paid cards that fall outside provincial jurisdiction are not covered by the legislation, such as telephone cards and cards with credit card branding. Gift cards sold by shopping malls for use at multiple stores in a mall will be allowed to charge some fees, however, the terms and conditions for their use must be disclosed to the consumer.

Merchants can use up old card stock that may show an expiry date, but it cannot be enforced on cards purchased after Nov. 1. Consumers should keep their receipts to prove the purchase date. Receipts are also important to get replacement cards if originals are lost or stolen.

Individuals or businesses that do not comply with the regulations could be subject to penalties, and customers will be entitled to a refund if they are charged fees that are prohibited.

Customers unable to resolve a gift card problem with a business can contact the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority, which investigates consumer complaints.

More information on the new gift card regulations is available at http://www.bpcpa.ca.


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