Senator Fuschillo Reminds Holiday Shoppers About Their Protections Under New York State's Gift Card Law

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

December 05, 2006

With the holiday shopping season upon us, Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), Chairman of the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee, is reminding consumers about the protections they have under New York State’s Gift Card Law.

"Many consumers will be buying gift cards for their loved ones and friends this holiday season, but before they make their purchases, they should remember their rights under the State’s gift card law," said Senator Fuschillo, who authored the law along with Senator Dean Skelos. "The law protects the value of a gift card from being diminished by hidden fees and requires companies to disclose any terms or conditions that apply to the gift card. This will make sure that consumers know the facts before they make their purchase."

Consumers have the following protections under New York State’s gift card law:

- Companies may not impose any retroactive fees against the balance of a gift certificate or gift card.

- Businesses may not impose any monthly service fees to the balance of a gift certificate or gift card until the thirteenth month of non-use. Each time the card is used or has value added to it, the consumer has a new thirteen month period before any monthly service fees can be applied.

- Companies must post a sign informing consumers if terms and conditions are applied to their gift cards or gift certificates.

- These posting requirements do not apply to gift certificates that are sold below face value at a volume discount to employees, to nonprofit and charitable organizations, or educational institutions for fundraising purposes; or distributed by the issuer to a consumer pursuant to awards, loyalty, or promotional programs.

- Companies that offer gift cards or gift certificates through the mail, phone, or internet must tell consumers that terms and conditions are applied to gift cards/certificates before they make their purchase.

- Certain terms and conditions must be clearly printed on the card/certificate, including expiration dates, fees charged against the balance of the gift card/certificate, and whether a replacement card will be issued if the gift certificate is lost, stolen, or destroyed.

- Any additional terms and conditions can be printed either on the card, on the card’s packaging, or on a separate sheet of paper included with the card, along with a toll free number that the consumer can use to access additional information.

- The Attorney General can bring legal action against any company who is believed to be in violation of this law. If found guilty, the courts may impose a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per offense and may order restitution for the consumer.

Consumers who believe that a company is breaking these laws can call the New York State Attorney General’s Regional Offices at 516-248-3302 (Nassau) or 631-231-2400 (Suffolk).