On 2 December 2019 Ireland introduced the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act which sets a minimum five-year expiry period for gift vouchers and prohibits any charge for changing the name on the voucher or that the voucher be spent in full in a single transaction. This applies to all gift vouchers sold from 2 December 2019.
The Act follows a long campaign by the Consumer Association of Ireland to regulate the sale and redemption of gift vouchers in Ireland and is designed to offer further protection to consumers. Its introduction is timely given the popularity of gift vouchers during the Christmas period.
The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019 (the Act) amends the Consumer Protection Act 2007 (the 2007 Act). The Act came into operation on 2 December 2019.
The Act requires gift voucher contracts between traders and consumers to include a number of required terms (and these terms will be implied into gift voucher contracts that do not expressly incorporate them and will override any contrary express terms).
Failure to do so can result in fines of up to EUR5,000 and / or imprisonment for up to one year per offence (on summary conviction), or EUR100,000 per offence and / or a imprisonment for up to two years (on indictment). Continued breach following conviction can result in further fines, calculated on a daily basis.
Due to the popularity of gift vouchers as Christmas presents, retailers should be aware of the following key provisions in particular in the New Year period:
As set out above, the Act applies to all gift vouchers sold from 2 December 2019 and does not apply retrospectively to vouchers issued before that date. The Act defines a gift voucher as
any voucher, coupon or other document or instrument, including in electronic form, that is intended to be used as a substitute for money in the payment, in whole or in part, for goods or service or otherwise exchanged for goods or services.
However, not all gift vouchers are covered by the legislation. The Act provides for exclusions which include, for example, coupons, vouchers supplied under a loyalty scheme and vouchers which constitute electronic money within the meaning of the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011 (the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has confirmed that One-4-all gift cards are considered electronic money cards and are therefore excluded from the Act).
Agift voucher contract is defined as a contract by...