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Consumer alert: NYS DCP alerts consumers of new laws related to gift cards and gift certificates this holiday season


Mon, Dec 12th 2022 07:00 am

Hochul’s signed legislation protecting consumers from exploitative gift card practices goes into effect Dec. 10

√ Gift cards and gift certificates cannot expire within nine years, will not decline in value due to various fees, and may be redeemed for cash if remaining value is less than $5 

Submitted by The New York State Division of Consumer Protection

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection has released tips to inform and empower New York consumers purchasing gift cards and gift certificates this holiday season. Any gift cards or gift certificates purchased in New York state on or after Dec. 10, 2022, will remain valid for a minimum of nine years from the date of purchase. And, when the remaining value of a gift card or gift certificate is less than $5, the recipient can opt to receive cash for the balance.

All fees are prohibited under the new law, which will prevent gift cards and gift certificates from declining in value. The law specifically forbids the imposition of any “activation fees, retroactive fees, redemption fees, service fees, dormancy fees, latency fees, administrative fees, handling fees, access fees, periodic fees, renewal fees, re-loading fees, or any other fee of any kind.”

There is one exception to the law. A gift card or gift certificate that is redeemable at multiple, unaffiliated merchants or service providers may charge a one-time activation fee, not to exceed $9.

“Gift cards offer consumers convenience during the holidays,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said. “Thanks to Gov. Hochul, gift cards now have a longer shelf life, and recipients are afforded more time to find the perfect gift to treat themselves as their gift giver intended.”

In New Yok state, a gift card or gift certificate’s purchase date determines what, if any, rights exist for consumers. Based on the purchase date, consumers can expect the following legal protections:

Below are tips consumers should keep in mind when buying and using gift cards this holiday season:

•Research retailers before purchase. Verify the legitimacy of the seller. Check reviews and articles.

•Check packaging. When buying a gift card, consumers should make sure the packaging and security seals are intact.

•Use caution with third parties. Consumers should use caution when buying gift cards from third parties or online auctions, as it may be difficult to verify the dollar amount remaining.

•Review the terms and conditions. Before purchasing, consumers should always review the terms and conditions to understand what their recourse is if the gift card is lost or stolen. Companies are required to post terms and conditions either on the card or in attached packaging.

•Beware of scammers. Scammers often seek payment in the form of gift cards, also known as prepaid cards. Government entities, utilities and other reputable entities will never call you demanding an overdue bill or debt be paid with a gift card.

Consumers having difficulty redeeming a gift card are encouraged to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Consumer Protection. The DCP provides voluntary mediation, between the consumer and business, when the consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own.

The consumer assistance helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. The division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

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