What do you buy for the pickiest of gift recipients, or for that person who appears to have everything? A gift voucher of course!   With Christmas well and truly on our doorstep, many of us are excitedly purchasing gift vouchers for loved ones.

This article will deal with the law (or lack of!) surrounding gift vouchers and potential legislative changes which may come into effect at some stage in the future.

Current Legal Position

The difficulty with gift cards/vouchers at present is that there are very few rules which regulate the gift voucher industry and therefore, policies regarding such vouchers can vary from business to business. Some businesses may take a very flexible approach in respect of such vouchers, whereas others may take a stricter view.  Despite the lack of clarity surrounding this aspect of consumer law, there are some tips which a consumer should always bear in mind when both purchasing and gifting such vouchers:

  • Know the expiry date – some businesses do not impose an expiry date whilst others may specify that the voucher will expire after a relatively short period of time. 
  • Check terms and conditions before you buy a gift voucher or gift card.
  • Check as to whether one must use the entirety of the value of the voucher in one transaction.
  • It sounds obvious, but do not lose your gift voucher or gift card!
  •  When you buy a gift voucher, always ask for a receipt in case of a lost or stolen gift voucher 

Possible Future Legal Changes

During the Summer of 2018, the Government discussed the prospect of legislating for a new law introducing a minimum expiry date of five years for gift vouchers.

Unfortunately, such laws never ultimately came into force but potentially may be introduced to the Irish legal system in future.

Therefore, there is currently no clear legal position in respect of gift vouchers in Ireland.  At present, each store/hotel/service provider has its own rules and regulations surrounding its specific gift voucher system.

Until more certainty is introduced into Irish law in respect of the purchase and receipt of gift vouchers, consumers should pay heed to the above tips and use their vouchers as quickly as possible!