McGuinty Government Celebrates The Holidays With Ban On Gift Card Expiry Dates

Archived Release

McGuinty Government Celebrates The Holidays With Ban On Gift Card Expiry Dates

Ministry of Consumer Services

Consumers Can Call Gift Card Hotline With Questions And Complaints QUEEN'S PARK, Dec. 6 - The McGuinty government is making a list and checking it twice to assure consumers that Ontario retailers are complying with the province's ban on gift card expiry dates, Government and Consumer Services Minister Ted McMeekin said today. "Gift cards are becoming increasingly popular during the holidays, especially as stocking stuffers," said McMeekin. "And we want Ontario consumers to know that gift cards are worth the money they paid for them, regardless of when those cards are used." The Ontario government's ban on gift card expiry dates - the first of its kind in Canada - came into effect on October 1, 2007. To further ensure that consumers get what they pay for, the new rules prohibit fees or deductions from a card's value, often charged for "inactivity", which is another way of expiring a gift card. "These new regulations strike a good balance between responding to the concerns of consumers and taking into consideration the legitimate needs of retailers," said Retail Council of Canada President and CEO Diane J. Briseboise. "We are pleased to work with the government to support compliance in the retail sector, and to work towards an even playing field for all gift card issuers." "People who receive gift cards no longer need to rush into a purchase just to get full value from their card," said Consumers Council of Canada Vice-President Eleanor Friedland. "Ontario continues to set an example for other provinces to follow when it comes to consumer protection initiatives like this." Ontario consumers who have questions, complaints or comments regarding the ban are encouraged to call the provinces toll free consumer hotline at 1-800-889-9768, or in Toronto at 416-326-8800. Disponible en français www.mgs.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Banning Gift Card Expiry Dates On October 1, 2007, amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 and Ontario Regulation 17/05 that relate to the sale of gift cards came into effect. The new regulations apply only to gift cards bought on or after October 1, 2007. Across Ontario many retailers voluntarily eliminated expiry dates and fees on existing cards. The amendments establish rules to protect consumers in Ontario who purchase or receive gift cards or gift certificates from stores and malls. The new consumer protection measures now being implemented include: 1. Prohibiting expiry dates on gift cards and certificates holding a specific dollar amount. 2. Restricting fees charged for gift cards to a) customizing a gift card, or b) replacing a lost or stolen gift card. 3. Requiring the clear and prominent disclosure of any items and conditions relating to a gift card (e.g., any limits to redeeming a card). 4. The rules apply to pre-paid and re-loadable gift cards and gift certificates sold by retailers. Gift cards redeemable at more than one unaffiliated store (e.g., shopping mall cards) must follow the rules relating to expiry dates and disclosures, but are temporarily exempt from the rules on fees while the ministry examines options to regulate these types of cards. 5. Gift cards for specific goods and services, such as a massage or manicure or dinner for two, are exempt from the law even if a dollar amount is specified on the card. Most major Canadian retailers sell gift cards to their customers. Gift cards and other stored-value cards are one of the fastest-growing products in the marketplace today. Ontario is the first Canadian jurisdiction to move to regulate gift cards. The restriction on fees will not apply to mall cards. This will allow more time to develop a workable solution with industry stakeholders that will ensure an informed decision that will best reflect the interests of consumers and business. Retail Compliance in Ontario Businesses in Ontario must make every effort to accurately notify consumers about the terms affecting gift cards, including prominent disclosure explaining expiry dates are not applicable to gift cards holding a specific dollar amount if they are purchased on or after October 1, 2007. To date, compliance by retailers has been very good. The Ministry has undertaken several spot checks and has uncovered only 8 cases of non-compliance out of approximately 28 retailers spot-checked. The majority of non-compliance is point of purchase/sale disclosures where the retailer is using up existing gift card stock. The Ministry has written to these few retailers about non-compliant cards, and has received responses indicating that they are moving quickly to comply - we will of course follow up on these cases. The Ministry will continue to work with retail partners and continue its enforcement activities over the holiday period. Disponible en français www.mgs.gov.on.ca Contact Info For further information: Media contacts: Greg Dennis, Minister's Office, Office: (416) 327-3072, Cell: (647) 281-4403; Ciaran Ganley, Communications Branch, (416) 325-8659 HELP | CONTACT US | PRIVACY | IMPORTANT NOTICES © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2008-2009 — Last Modified: February 15, 2009 For further information: Media contacts: Greg Dennis, Minister's Office, Office: (416) 327-3072, Cell: (647) 281-4403; Ciaran Ganley, Communications Branch, (416) 325-8659