For Immediate Release
December 23, 2008
Senior Assistant Attorney General Lauren J. Noether
Gift cards are often the most exchanged holiday gift, followed by books, CDs, DVDs, videos, video games and clothing. Consumers report that gift cards are easier and faster to buy and allow recipients to select their own gift. However, some consumers also report they are hesitant to buy gift cards because they are worried about cards with expiration dates or added fees or that a retailer may go out of business before the card is used.
Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte warns New Hampshire consumers to be cautious when purchasing gift cards. New Hampshire's Consumer Protection Act states that gift certificates purchased in New Hampshire may not expire, and cannot include service charges, dormancy fees, or other administrative charges that reduce the value of the gift certificate.
Attorney General Ayotte, however, alerts consumers that there are other gift cards on the market that are regulated by federal law and, therefore, not subject to the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act. Gift cards issued by banks or in partnership with banks may lawfully contain an expiration date and may levy administrative charges and other fees. As these cards are bank products, regulated by federal banking laws, the New Hampshire law with its specific protections does not apply to them. Bank issued gift cards usually include an affiliation with a major credit card company.
"Our office recommends that consumers be sure to read the terms and conditions before purchasing any gift card and that those who receive a card determine if they need to use it promptly or if they can hold it for a while without loosing value," said Ayotte.
Cards that are not issued by a bank are still subject to New Hampshire's Consumer Protection Act, and cannot have fees that reduce the value of the card, nor can they expire. Attorney General Ayotte recommends consumers buy gift cards from reputable retailers. Consumers should keep the original receipt. Some retailers may be able to reissue a lost gift card if consumers have kept the original receipt. Gift cards should be bought close in time to when they will given and recipients should use them as soon as possible to guard against the possibility of the cards becoming worthless should the business become insolvent.
If consumers have questions about gift cards, they can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-468-4454. Consumers can also file complaints with the Attorney General's Office online at http://www.egov.nh.gov/consumercomplaint.
New Hampshire Department of Justice | 33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301