By Joseph A. “Jay” Geary
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson P.A.
Q: Do the gift cards I received during the holidays expire? Are there any charges or fees for use or non-use?
A: Generally, Florida law provides that consumer “gift cards” (i.e., instruments issued on a prepaid basis primarily for personal, family, or household purposes) are not subject to expiration dates or fees. However, as with any general rule, there are exceptions.
Florida law (§ 501.95(1) (b), Fla.Stat.), defines a “gift certificate” as:
* * * a certificate, gift card, stored value card, or similar instrument purchased for monetary consideration when the certificate, card, or similar instrument is redeemable for merchandise, food, or services regardless of whether any cash may be paid to the owner of the certificate, card, or instrument as part of the redemption transaction, but this term shall not include [theme park and entertainment] tickets * * * or manufacturer or retailer discounts and coupons.
Under Florida law, the general rule is that a gift certificate purchased in Florida may not have an expiration date or period, or any type of post-sale charges or fees imposed on the gift certificate, such as service, “dormancy” (i.e., “inactivity”), account maintenance or cash-out fees.
Nevertheless, a “gift certificate” may have an expiration date of not less than three (3) years if given as a charitable contribution, or not less than one (1) year if given as part of an employee incentive plan, AND, in either case, the expiration date is prominently disclosed in writing at the time it is provided. Gift certificates given by a financial institution or a money services business (for example, pre-paid Visa debit cards) may have expiration dates if redeemable by multiple unaffiliated merchants.
This article describes Florida law applicable to “gift certificates”. Certain federal laws also apply to gift certificates, gift cards, general-use pre-paid cards and to “loyalty, award, or promotional” gift cards. The last category of cards may allow the imposition of service fees, dormancy charges, and expiration dates, provided they are prominently disclosed when the card is issued. Federal laws exempt certain cards from the restrictions on expiration, fees and certain charges, including cards: for pre-paid telephone services; not marketed to the general public; and issued in paper form only.
The January 15 edition of “The Law” will cover liability for damage from your neighbor’s overhanging tree limbs.
[Joseph A. “Jay” Geary is a shareholder with the law firm Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. Questions can be submitted online to email@example.com.]