Aussie reveals $150 rip off

Lucy thought she’d found the perfect gift idea, but ended up throwing $150 down the drain after being stung by a regular fall.

When Lucy* bought a gift certificate for a friend for the Metropolitan Museum of Art store in Sydney, she thought she had come up with the perfect gift idea.

But there was just one problem: the purchase coincided with the Covid pandemic and subsequent prolonged lockdowns, and by the time Sydney reopened, the store had closed.

Lucy contacted the US-based parent store and was told the voucher could be redeemed there, but expensive postage meant nearly the entire $150 value would be swallowed up by freight alone.

“Since the store still existed and they had respected their coupon, I couldn’t do anything,” she said.

“That’s $150 I’ll never see again.”

Sadly, Lucy is just one of countless Aussies stung by gift card issues, which have become even more common during the pandemic.

In fact, gift card expiration dates became such a mess for Australians that in 2019 Australia’s Consumer Act was amended to require most gift cards or vouchers to be sold with a mandatory minimum expiration period of three years.

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The adjustment was badly needed, with research by comparison site Finder dated December 2021, which found that the average Aussie had $95 worth of gift cards languishing in drawers — the equivalent of a whopping $1.8 billion national spend.

An ACCC spokeswoman told that there are a number of requirements under Australia’s consumer law around the delivery of gift cards.

There are some exceptions to these requirements, but in general, gift cards should now have an expiration period of at least three years, clearly display the expiration date, and have no post-delivery charges.

“The ACCC expects all businesses to respect and extend gift card expiration dates to cover any period the card could not be used due to the business’s closure,” the spokeswoman said.

“During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many businesses were able to trade in some capacity, so in many cases consumers could still use their gift card or voucher even if the company’s physical stores were closed.

“However, if consumers were unable to use a gift card or voucher due to the company’s requirements – for example, that the gift card could only be used for purchases in a brick-and-mortar store, even if the company only traded online during the Covid-19 restrictions – the ACCC expects the company to provide gift card consumers with some form of remedy.”

The spokeswoman said that if a company has gone insolvent, consumers with gift cards will generally become unsecured creditors.

“What consumers are entitled to in these circumstances depends on the administration process,” she said.

Otherwise, if a consumer cannot resolve a gift card issue with a retailer, they should contact their state or area fair trade office, who may be able to assist with their dispute.

“Consumers can also report their problem to the ACCC.”

Sarah Megginson, senior money editor at Finder, told there was only limited leeway for those affected by Covid lockdowns.

“If the company was still trading to some degree during the pandemic, they could claim that the voucher can be redeemed online if they have a digital store,” she explained, encouraging consumers who were unsure to get in touch. with the retailer for clarification.

“Despite closing dates being extended, gift cards can be easily forgotten if buried in a drawer or purse,” said Ms. Megginson.

“Keep your cards and credits in one place so they don’t get lost. This makes it easier to find them when you need them.

“Setting a reminder in your phone before the expiration date also ensures that you don’t forget to use it.”

* Name has been changed

Read related topics:Sydney

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