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Minister Humphreys to propose minimum expiry date of five years for gift vouchers

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, today announced that she will shortly be bringing forward proposals for legislation to introduce a minimum expiry date of five years for gift vouchers.

Minister Humphreys said:

“There’s no doubt that there are great advantages to gift vouchers. That said, Ireland has no legislation regulating their expiry dates, which causes confusion and worry to many consumers. This can be particularly frustrating where the vouchers themselves aren’t clear about their cut-off point.”

In 2015, the European Union published proposals for two EU Directives on digital content and online sales, which impacted the draft Scheme of a Consumer Rights Bill that included provisions for the regulation of gift vouchers. As the two proposals have taken longer than expected to progress the Minister has decided to proceed with a standalone proposal on expiry dates for gift vouchers.

The Minister continued:

“For too long the waters have been muddied for consumers and businesses alike, so I want to act now to ensure clarity for everyone. For the last few months, I have been developing proposals to introduce a minimum expiry date of 5 years and I’m pleased to say that they are now an advanced stage. I will be going to Government to seek approval to draft a bill shortly.”

The Minister concluded: 

“Every year, countless gift vouchers are lost or go out of date so I’m confident that these proposals can make a real difference to consumers for the better. Let’s face it - we’re all consumers and this is an issue that affects most of us, so I’m hopeful that the move can be agreed by all parties in the Oireachtas.”

 

Ends

 

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department also has a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

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Note for the editors

 

Background

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published the draft Scheme of a comprehensive Consumer Rights Bill for public consultation on 25 May 2015. In addition to Parts dealing with the consolidation and updating of the law on the supply of goods, digital content and services and on unfair contract terms, the draft Scheme contains a number of provisions for the regulation of gift vouchers, including a proposed ban on expiry dates in contracts for the supply of gift vouchers.

The responses to the gift card provisions raised a substantial number of issues, including concerns expressed by businesses about the impact of a complete prohibition on expiry dates.

The Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill had to take account of current European Union legislative proposals for Directives on consumer contracts for the supply of digital content and consumer contracts for the online and other distance sale of goods. These proposals, which were announced in May 2015 and published in December 2015, overlap very substantially with two of the main parts of the draft Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill.

Given the slower than expected progress on these two EU proposals, the Minister is proceeding with a standalone proposal on the issue of the expiry dates for gift vouchers.

Current Legislation

There is no regulation of expiry dates of gift vouchers at present.

Overall, there is no specific legislation dealing with gift vouchers, however, gift vouchers supplied to consumers are subject to the provisions of general consumer protection legislation, in particular the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices and of the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995).

Those gift vouchers that cover a wide range of traders and retailers come within the definition of “electronic money” in the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011 and are subject to the provisions of these Regulations.

Timeline

The Minister’s proposals are at an advanced stage and she will bring them to Government as soon as possible.

 

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