Gift card expiry rules will be here in time for Christmas 2019!

In Australia, around 34 million gift cards are sold each year with an estimated value of $2.5 billion. On average, an estimated $70 million is lost because of expiry date.

Hopefully, the amount of money lost to expired gift cards will significantly reduce next year. From 1 November 2019, new laws will take effect that introduce a regime for the regulation of gift cards, including:  

  • A minimum three year expiry period;
  • Bolstering disclosure requirements;
  • Banning post-supply fees.  

Some larger businesses have already adopted a three-year expiry period, following the introduction of state laws in NSW at the end of 2017. These include David Jones, Myers, Westfield, Rebel Sport and Coles. Other retailers have no expiry dates - including iTunes, JB Hi-Fi, EB Games, Woolworths and Bunnings. Generous expiry periods are a point of difference when consumers are working out which retailers gift card to purchase.

From 1 November 2019, businesses should ensure:  

All gift cards have a minimum three-year expiry period.
Any existing gift card stock should be run down and production reviewed to ensure that once the new regime comes into effect, only compliant gift cards are issued.

Ensure disclosure requirements are met.

The expiry date - or the date the card was supplied - and a statement about the period of validity, must be set out prominently on the gift card itself. If only the month and year are displayed, It is assumed that the card expires on the last day of the month. If the gift card does not expire, the card will need to clarify this by stating words to the effect of, “never expires”.

Post-supply fees are not charged.

A post-supply fee is a fee that is charged reducing the value of the gift card such as administration fees for using a gift card. Post-supply fees exclude the fees that are normally charged regardless of how someone pays for a product or service. For example, booking fees, a fee to reissue a lost or damaged card, and payment surcharges.

What happens if a business ignores the new rules?

Once the new rules come into effect, if a gift card is supplied with less than a three-year expiry period, the disclosure requirements are not met, or post-supply fees are charged, a penalty may be imposed of up to $30,000 for a body corporate and $6,000 for persons other than a body corporate.

In addition, the ACCC has the ability to impose infringement notices. Each infringement notice is 55 units (currently $11,500) for a body corporate and 11 units (currently $2,420) for persons other than a body corporate.

What happens if a business becomes insolvent or is sold?

The consumer’s rights do not change if the business becomes insolvent or bankrupt. The consumer becomes an unsecured creditor of the business. If a business changes owners, the new owner must honour existing gift cards and vouchers if the business was either:

  • Sold as a ‘going concern’. That is, the assets and liabilities of the business were sold by the previous owner to the new owner.
  • Owned by a company rather than an individual, and the new owner purchased the shares in the company.

So, it's all good news for those who are guilty of leaving gift cards at the bottom of their wallet for months on end - your window of opportunity is increasing! Businesses also may find that customers are more likely to purchase gift cards for Christmas next year, knowing that their money is less likely to go to waste.