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Gift Card Laws, Consumer Contracts and Shopping For The Holidays

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A few tips regarding Gift Card Laws before you purchase your gifts this holiday season.

Did you know that there are Consumer Laws to protect your rights when purchasing goods and services? Goods can be purchased with cash, credit/debit cards, gift cards and checks depending on where you are shopping. With the holiday shopping frenzy about to begin, take the time to consider a few basics when shopping in a retail establishment, especially when using or purchasing a gift card.

Consumer Contracts

When you shop, carefully read the store’s return policy and make sure the amount you paid for an item is clearly printed on your receipt. Since gift receipts do not display the price paid, keep note of the actual cost in the event of an after holiday return when the prices are much lower. Know that when you purchase an item from a specific store, you are agreeing to that particular store’s terms and a legally enforceable contract has been created.

Generally, a legally enforceable contract is created when you buy, lease, or rent, goods or services. This also includes gift cards. A contract engages two parties. In a consumer contract, the first party is the person buying the good or services, (he or she is known as the consumer) and the second party is selling the goods or services. The second party can be a person, business, store or some other type of establishment.

Consumer Gift Card Laws 2014

When purchasing gift cards be sure to read the small print and become familiar with the protections available for consumers under the Gift Card Laws. Under Federal Gift Card Law, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act provides numerous protections for consumers purchasing gift cards. First, money on store issued and bank issued gift cards cannot expire before 5 years from the date of purchase or when money was first loaded on the gift card.

Additionally, fees for not using the gift card are prohibited unless you have not used the gift card for over 12 months. If you are purchasing a Visa or MasterCard gift card, the gift card will be protected by this Act.

Further, New Jersey State Gift Card Laws offers additional consumer protections beyond the Federal Laws regarding gift cards. Noteworthy is the fact that where the Federal Gift Card Laws conflict with the State Gift Card Laws, the stricter State Gift Card Laws will control. For example, where the Federal Law allows 5 years before a gift card can expire, in New Jersey, funds on gift cards purchased on or after December 1, 2012 cannot expire at all.

New Jersey Gift Card Laws also provides that gift cards sold after December 1, 2012, will have no extra fees except for activation, re-load or replacement. For gift cards purchased before December 1, 2012, a dormancy fee will begin after two years of inactivity and cannot exceed $2.00 a month.

Further, when there is a balance of less than $5.00 on a gift card, it may be redeemed for cash as long as the beginning balance of the card had more than $5 on it. Balance refunds may not be permitted on gift cards that can be used at multiple merchants, (as in mall gift cards) or on cards provided as a refund for returned merchandise.

Additional help for the consumer is available through the County Consumer Affairs Agency. The New Jersey Consumer Affairs Agency works with the local offices to inform consumers of their rights and to provide assistance when needed. For Gloucester County Consumer Affairs, call 856-384-6855 for information. For unresolved consumer claims…don’t wait… consult with an attorney!

Till next week, God bless, keep smiling and remember who’s in Your Legal Corner. Next week, YLC will discuss “Online Shopping Tips for Cyber Monday and the Holidays.

Victoria Dalton Attorney Hoffman DimuzioVictoria M. Dalton is an Attorney Of Counsel with the dedicated Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio.

Call 856-845-8243 or fill out our contact form for further information.

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