Minden Press-Herald

Oct 02nd

Pitfalls to gift cards

N1102P49003C_copyAlternative to cash not always best alternative

After Christmas, the hustle and bustle turns into long work days, tired feet and a need for stress relief.

December was the season for giving a perfect, no nonsense gift; gift card, that is. Before redeeming gift certificates or gift cards that have been piling up in your wallet, be wary of the lure of gift cards and understand your rights as a consumer.

Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce President Jerri de Pingre' said, "from a consumer aspect, be certain what the terms are at the business."

Although gift certificates and gift cards are readily available and easy, they may not be the best choice at times. Consumers are experiencing a downside to the convenience of a little plastic card.

One Minden resident found out firsthand that having a gift certificate went from a good to bad experience.

The resident, who asked to remain anoonymous, said she was unpleasantly surprised at the experience she had at a local restaurant when redeeming a gift certificate.

The resident said she assumed that since the certificate was for $30 and she had spent less than $20, that the difference would be given back in the form of a certificate. However, the business did not want to honor the difference.

"It's not our policy," the business owner allegedly told the resident.

Louisiana has put laws into place to protect consumers from this. Unfortunately, business owners and/or consumers may not be aware of the laws.

The Louisiana Revised Statutes 51:1423-Deceptive trade practices, current as of August 2012, which states the following:

"'Gift certificate' shall mean a writing identified as a gift certificate or gift card purchased by a buyer for use by a person not redeemable in cash and usable in its face amount in lieu of cash in exchange for goods or services supplied by the seller.

"A gift certificate or gift card shall include an electronic card with a banked dollar value, a merchandise credit, a certificate where the issuer has received payment for the full face value of the future purchase or delivery of goods or services and any other medium that evidences the giving of consideration in exchange for the right to redeem the certificate, electronic card or other medium for goods, food, services, credit or money of at least an equal value. A gift certificate is presumed abandoned three years after December 31 of the year it was sold. Using the gift card at least one time during the three year term would give the consumer until the five year mark.

"(A) The law states that an expiration date must be more than five years and conspicuous and that a gift certificate sold without an expiration date shall be valid until redeemed or replaced.

"(B) Prohibits a service fee, including but not limited to a service fee for dormancy fee. However, nothing shall prevent the issuer from charging a one-time handling fee, which shall not exceed $1 per gift certificate."

According to Consumer Reports, those protections don't apply to loyalty and reward cards and the promotional gift cards consumers redeem with credit-card points. Plus, if you get a gift card from a retailer that later declares bankruptcy, the chances of redeeming the card fall somewhere between slim and none.

A proposed bill in Congress aims to eliminate unfriendly terms and conditions. The Gift Card Consumer Protection Act would completely ban gift cards with expiration dates and nonuse fees.

The legislation would also prevent companies that file for bankruptcy from selling gift cards and require them to accept and honor unredeemed gift cards. Finally, the bill treats loyalty, reward, and promotional cards the same as other gift cards, so they won't expire.






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