What is a gift voucher?
A gift voucher is a card or voucher you can use instead of money to pay for goods and services.
There are many benefits to gift vouchers but there are also some risks. For example, if you lose the voucher, it expires before you use it, or you are not able to spend the remaining balance. It is important you know the conditions and rules that apply to the gift voucher before you buy.
The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019 introduced extra rights for gift vouchers sold after 2 December 2019.
Types of gift vouchers
Gift vouchers can be paper certificates, electronic cards or gift cards. They can come from a single business or a group, such as a shopping centre.
Electronic money gift card
Electronic money gift cards (for example, One4all gift cards) can be used in different shops.
Before you buy the card, you must be told about the conditions for using it, including any fees. Fees must be proportionate and should match the actual costs to the business for issuing the card.
Electronic money gift cards are regulated under the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011. The Central Bank enforces rules for electronic money gift cards.
Rules covering gift vouchers
Gift vouchers sold after 2 December 2019 must have no expiry date or be valid for at least 5 years.
The seller cannot:
- Force you to use the entire gift voucher in one go
- Charge a fee for changing the name on a gift voucher (if name registration is required)
If there is more than €1 left on your gift voucher after a purchase, the seller must refund you the balance. They can do this with cash, transfer it electronically to your bank or by giving you another gift voucher.
Exceptions to the rules
The rules do not cover vouchers that:
- Can only be used to buy goods and services at a discounted price, from a specific seller on a set date, or for 3 months or less (such as deal websites like Groupon or Pigsback)
- Are part of a customer loyalty or promotion scheme
- You got as a refund for returned goods
- Were sold before 2 December 2019 - the original expiry date and terms still apply to these vouchers
Know the terms before you buy
You have the right to be told about the terms of the voucher before you buy. If you are unsure about any of the terms, ask the seller.
If you buy a gift voucher for another person, give them the terms and conditions and the receipt with the voucher or card.
Things to check in the small print
|Things to check
Is there an expiry date, when is it?There are different rules on expiry dates - see more below.
|Need to book or reserve by a certain date
Check if the voucher has a deadline that you must book or make a reservation.For example, it could say you must book the service within one month of purchase.
|Only valid during certain dates or times
Check for any restrictions on when you can use a voucher.For example, Monday to Friday or between 5pm and 7pm.
|What exactly the voucher entitles you to
Check what the seller promises to provide when the voucher is used.For example, a one-night stay in a hotel with breakfast included.
|How the voucher can be used
|For example, you may only be able to use the voucher in-store, online, over the phone or by email.
|Other important information
What happens to any remaining balance?
If you can you transfer the voucher to someone else?
What happens if you lose or damage the voucher?
Expiry dates on gift vouchers
Vouchers bought after 2 December 2019
There is a minimum 5-year expiry on vouchers bought after 2 December 2019.
Vouchers must either have no expiry date or be valid for at least 5 years from the issue date.
When you buy a gift voucher, you should get the expiry details on paper or by email.
The legislation covering expiry dates is the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019. It does not apply to vouchers bought before 2 December 2019.
Vouchers bought before 2 December 2019
You should have been told the expiry date when you bought the voucher. Expiry information can be on the voucher, the packaging, the website or the shop policy.
Some sellers can be flexible if your voucher has expired. But if you bought it before 2 December 2019, they are not legally obliged to extend it and may charge a fee.
If you lose a gift voucher
Gift vouchers are like cash, so if you lose it, the seller does not have to replace it.
If a voucher was made out to you personally and is not transferable, you might get a replacement. This depends on the voucher’s terms and conditions and the company’s policy.
For lost cards, you may have the option to get a replacement card but you need to check with the seller. You could be charged a fee for the replacement card.
If the company goes out of business
If a company goes out of business before you use the voucher, getting your money back can be difficult.
Usually, the seller owes money to several people so your claim is just one of many. There are rules about the priority given to different debts when a business goes into liquidation or receivership. Generally, your claim is low in priority.
Make a written claim to the administrator or liquidator (if applicable). Provide proof of your voucher. However, it is unlikely your voucher will be honoured if a new owner takes over.
To protect your purchase, consider buying gift vouchers with a credit card or debit card. You may be able to use chargeback through your bank or credit card provider – see more below.
Get more help
If a seller refuses to accept or give the value of a gift card, you should first try to resolve the problem by talking to them directly.
If you cannot resolve the problem, you can:
- Contact your card provider and ask them to reverse the transaction (known as 'chargeback'). Some other payment methods also provide protection schemes (for example, PayPal buyer protection).
- Use out-of-court procedures such as the European Consumer Centres Network (for cross-border disputes only) and Online Dispute Resolution (for national and cross-border online disputes)
- Take a claim against the seller using the small claims procedure. For cross-border disputes within the EU, you can use the European small claims procedure.