“Every year, it is estimated that Australians spend up to $2.5 billion buying gift cards for their families and friends, Mr Mason-Cox said.
“There is no denying the popularity of gift cards or their benefits but consumers do need to pay extra attention to the terms and conditions, whether you are purchasing or redeeming a card.
“So far this year, NSW Fair Trading has received around 74 complaints about gift card. “That is 10 more than the same period last year.’’
“As we head into the busy Christmas shopping season, we are reminding consumers to try and redeem the gift cards as soon they can after receiving them.’’
Card expiry was the number one complaint consumers made against gift cards, followed by terms and conditions.’’
One complaint received by NSW Fair Trading involved a customer being told she could not use a gift voucher she had received because it had expired a day earlier. NSW Fair Trading intervened and the trader agreed to honour the voucher.
Mr Mason-Cox said while some traders may extend the expiry date as a goodwill gesture, they are not legally obligated.
Other issues raised by consumers include not receiving cards in the mail, which were purchased online, a business closing down, or being sold, and disputes about the balance left on cards.
“Gift cards are a great solution for many people but they can also be a waste of money and lead to disappoint if not used correctly,’’ Mr Mason-Cox said
“Some cards have set expiry dates, while others may limit what products or services a consumer can buy. “In the case of services, gift cards may also have restrictions on when you can book or use the service.
“If you are buying a gift card for someone else, keep your proof of purchase in case there are problems using the card.
“If you receive a gift card, treat it like cash because if you lose it, it can be very difficult to replace.
“Setting a reminder date is a useful way to make sure you don’t miss the expiry date. “Fair Trading’s free ShopSmart app provides this facility, as well as a wealth of information for shoppers.’’