Retail Gift Card Update Jun 28, 2013

Although it has been several years since Ontario made important changes to the way retail gift cards are treated under Consumer Protection laws, there continues to be confusion in the minds of some shoppers. This article attempts to explain the changes that were introduced on October 1, 2007 to better protect consumers.

As a general rule, gift cards can no longer carry expiry dates. Exceptions are cards that are redeemable only for specific goods or services, such as a named treatment at a spa.

In addition, most fees have been banned. For example, with few exceptions, activation fees and “dormancy” fees can no longer be applied to gift cards.  Cards purchased from a shopping mall, rather than a retailer, may carry a one-time activation fee not to exceed $1.50, and must retain their full face value for at least 15 months. A small dormancy fee can be applied after that time. Fees are still permitted to replace a lost or stolen card, or to customize a card.

It is to be hoped and expected that by this time, retailers are fully aware of their obligations concerning gift cards, and that they will comply. But as in all things, a properly informed consumer is better able to protect him or herself.