The Department of Consumer Protection is urging consumers to use gift cards received over the holidays as soon as possible in order to minimize risk. Although gift cards issued under Connecticut do not expire, an issuing business can close. If a business closes, it is very difficult to recover funds for unused gift cards.
Complaints about gift cards have gone down slightly this year from 36 in 2015 to 29 so far in 2016.
“We want consumers to enjoy the gifts they’ve received over the holidays with their families,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris. “We know that after the holiday season many people have had enough of shopping and can be very busy returning gifts and trying to fulfill New Year’s resolutions – and using a gift card is the last thing on our mind.”
Laws related to gift cards can seem complicated.
Here’s what consumers should know:
• Be aware of whether your gift card is covered by federal law or Connecticut state law. This impacts your rights. Gift certificates and gift cards that are sold in Connecticut and not issued by or covered by a federal financial institution are covered under Connecticut state law. Gift cards issued or covered by a federal financial institution are subject to federal law.
• For gift certificates and gift cards that are issued by a financial institution, such as a bank, you can determine if a financial institution is a federal financial institution or not, by going to the Connecticut Department of Banking’s website.
• If Connecticut state law applies, then the gift certificate or gift card may not have an expiration date or inactivity fee.
• If federal law applies, gift cards purchased on or after August 22, 2010 may not have an expiration date within the first five years.
• Any money added to a card covered under federal law may not expire within five years from deposit.
• Fees, if any, must be disclosed.
• Federal and Connecticut gift card laws do not cover re-loadable pre-paid cards, reward cards, or pre-paid calling cards. However, any expiration dates or fees must be clearly disclosed.
More details about gift card rules and regulations is available on the Dept of Consumer Protection website.
If consumers have complaints related to gift cards, they may file a complaint with DCP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (860) 713-6100.