Tag Archives | vouchers

Gift voucher proposals not worth the effort – New Consumer Protection Legislation (2 of 5)

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has proposed some useless changes to consumer legislation around vouchersIn my summary blog post recently (Consumer Protection Legislation – some good but some pointless changes proposed) about the May 2015 announcement of some extensive changes to consumer rights legislation announced by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr. Richard Bruton, TD, I noted that I expected that the greatest impact for consumers would be those impacting gift vouchers and the 30 day refund period for faulty products.

And not by accident, those changes would likely have the biggest impact on retailers, endangering their enactment at all.

30 Day Refund

For me, of most interest proposal which will provide for a standard 30 day period in which consumers can return faulty goods and get a full refund. This would be huge for consumers if it was to be enacted – the current hazy legislation regarding “refund, repair, replace” which leaves it down to the retailer to decide which remedy to apply, and over an undetermined time period, is probably one of the biggest bugbears and cause for confusion among consumers.

It will be interesting to see if this does go through as it likely to be rigorously opposed by retailers who hide behind the existing repair / replace options within consumer legislation to ensure they never have to return money to consumers for crappy products.

It is likely also to generate some comic conversations where within 30 days of purchase, retailers will try to justify how a clearly broken product is in fact operating exactly as it should.

Your smartphone won’t connect to the mobile network? Well, that’s the new thing – this is actually really supposed to be viewed as a Wi-Fi phone. Yes, that’s right, there are the Wi-Fi tablets already, so obviously the next step is Wi-Fi phones.

Developments and progress towards implementing the proposals here, and whether or not they’ll eventually be watered down before passing into law, will be worth monitoring.

Rights by Proxy

The new proposals includes somewhat innovative clause that would allow consumers who receive products or services as a gift be entitled to the same rights as if they bought the product or service themselves.

When I say innovative, maybe I should have said “makey uppey”. I’ve no legal background but I’m not sure that creating such a right by proxy would be very easily achieved.

More importantly, I’m not sure we really need such a new right to be provided to gift recipients. Existing consumer rights can handle such scenarios perfectly well without providing such rights by proxy.

Gift Voucher Changes

As I mentioned in my original blog post, I think these are mainly included in the proposals for their headline grabbing capacity, and the proposal is largely futile in its wish to ban expiry dates for gift cards and vouchers.

Regular readers here will know that I’m not a fan of gift cards and vouchers. You can read here my thoughts on why you should avoid gifts vouchers and instead, gifts could and should be much better thought out rather than plumping for the gift voucher catch-all.

I accept that, yes, this new legislation will remove the danger of voucher expiry from that list of dangers, but many other will still remain – and many cannot be mitigated through legislation.

Buyer should still always beware

The Irish Examiner Survey Says 46% of consumers don't check voucher termsAs in most things, the first line of protection for the consumer is the consumer themselves – which was always the case anyway when it came to expired vouchers. This article from the Irish Examiner [Survey: 46% do not check gift card conditions] highlights research carried out on behalf of the National Consumer Agency (NCA) [now the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CPCC)] which indicates that almost half of people receiving vouchers or gift cards as Christmas presents do not check the conditions of use.

Worse, consumers in many cases won’t even use their gift vouchers, never mind read the terms and conditions. According to estimates in this US article [1$billion in gift cards goes unredeemed], at least in 2007 up to 10% of all gift vouchers purchased were never redeemed. Whereas this article [Half of us have left gift vouchers expire] tells us that further National Consumer Agency (NCA) research has found that 48% of Irish people let gift vouchers and cards expire.

If consumers in general were to read the terms and conditions of their vouchers, and were to actually follow up and spend those vouchers in a timely manner, then we’d have no need for this legislation. In fact, in this view, even the vice-chairman of the Consumers Association of Ireland (Mr. Michael Kilcoyne) and myself are in agreement. In a recent article, Mr. Kilcoyne is quoted as saying:

But all the legislation in the world is no use if we, as consumers, don’t shop around and get the best deal for ourselves.

Rare wise and useful words. Next up, I’ll write a little more on what I think would be potentially the most beneficial proposal for Irish consumers – the automatic right to a refund within 30 days of purchase for faulty products.

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The “new” HMV is honouring vouchers from the “old” HMV. What should you do next?

Run, as fast as you can, into your nearest HMV and spend them all. Get rid of them as quickly as you can. If you still have HMV vouchers, you’re extremely lucky that the new HMV are doing this – they’re not obliged to do this at all.

Though, one wonders if there isn’t all that many vouchers outstanding that haven’t been ripped up. It’s a nice gesture, but businesses don’t normally go for nice gestures if it’s likely to cost them a lot of money. I haven’t seen any of the newspaper coverage of this story actually ask the question as to what value of vouchers is outstanding.

Anyway, what should you do now?

  1. Spend any vouchers that you have as soon as you possibly can
  2. Search your house high and low for any other vouchers you have, gather them all together and spend them as well
  3. Learn your lesson from the HMV debacle and don’t buy any more vouchers – for yourself or for anyone else – and if you do receive vouchers as gifts, spend them as soon as you get them

Vouchers are evil – particularly so these days given the perilous state of many businesses, so you could lose your money. They’re also a really lazy present and could cause the recipient of your present to lose out as well.

Finally, click here to read plenty more reasons why vouchers are so evil and should be avoided.

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Another reason not to get involved with gift vouchers – I’m losing count now

One of the more popular pages on this site is my constantly updated feature on reasons not to get involved in using gift vouchers – you can see the latest update here.

An oldish story in the Irish Times further highlights that recommendation – Consumers warned to redeem gift vouchers without delay.

The story refers to the policy of the then “about to close down” Hughes & Hughes to not honour any outstanding gift vouchers in the run up to their closing.

All you can say really is what complete and utter scumbags they are – seeing actions like this you’d have to say “no loss” to their closing down if that’s the way they’re going to do business.

Yes, yes, I know that circumstances were different then with their running out of money and shutting down, but in fairness, if that kind of stunt is symptomatic of how they normally ran their business, then we’re better off without them.

Still though, despite the bleating from the Consumers Association of Ireland (we haven’t heard from them in a while) and the National Consumer Agency, Hughes & Hughes were completely within their rights to do this as they had probably catered for it in the terms and conditions of using (or not using) their vouchers.

According to the article, the CAI had the following potentially misleading, and ultimately pointless comment to make:

Consumer Association of Ireland (CAI) chief executive Dermott Jewell said it was “not acceptable” for Hughes Hughes not to redeem the book token while branches were still open. “The consumer holding the voucher would have a contract with that company as long as it is still trading.”

A contract, yes, where there are terms and conditions in place which the consumer would have signed up to by getting involved in the vouchers in the first place.

Maria Hurley from the NCA, apparently echoing someone from the receivers, Deloitte, at least had the factual – if not altogether helpful for the consumer – comments to make:

A company which goes into receivership does not have to honour gift vouchers, even if stores are still open. After a receiver is appointed, he or she is responsible for all subsequent decisions affecting the business, including whether gift vouchers are honoured, she explained.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. In this current environment where you don’t know which businesses are ultimately going to survive, stay away from vouchers, credit notes, lay aways and even deposits – basically any situation where you give money up front to a business in expectation of a future delivery of a product or service.

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Don’t buy Aer Lingus vouchers this Christmas

The image below shows the contents of a recent Aer Lingus marketing e-mail. They’re advertising their vouchers as a perfect Christmas gift, but as per my advice last year, you should avoid buying vouchers at all, from anyone, this Christmas.

To refresh your memory, check out this post – Reasons Not to Buy Vouchers – to see the multitude of reasons to stay well away from vouchers this Christmas, or any other time.

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“One4All Smart Planner” – avoid for the time being

About a month ago, I wrote about the recent launch of the ““One4All Smart Planner” Christmas savings product”.

My concerns, like with any Christmas savings club or voucher scheme, is that you’re giving a company your money before you actually get anything from them. It’s handy money for nothing for them for a while – and you’re getting no return like you would do if you saved with a bank instead.

There’s the danger also that if the company goes bust, you’ll go to the end of the queue as an unsecured creditor where you’ll find it most unlikely that you’ll get your money back.

I did ask the people behind the One4All SmartPlanner, the Gift Voucher Shop, for some extra information on how the scheme works and what protections are in place for consumers that might be thinking of getting involved in the scheme.

I did receive a response, but some of the details I was most interested in, the protection for consumers money, was in contradiction to the answers posted in the FAQ section of the website.

I have asked for further clarification as I’m concerned that there isn’t sufficient protection in place that would allow consumer get their money back in the event of any problems with the Gift Voucher Shop company.

With that in mind, I’d hold off on getting involved in the One4All SmartPlanner product until I can get further clarification.

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“One4All Smart Planner” Christmas savings product – some initial thoughts

Friday the 13th saw two newspaper articles, in the Independent and the Times, announcing the launch of a One4All Smart Planner Christmas savings product. I can’t find any specific details about the product on the One4All website, so these are some initial thoughts on the proposal.

First of all, as I’ve said before, Christmas savings clubs set up by private companies are a bad idea. Essentially, you’re giving them money for nothing for a period of time, hoping to get it back before Christmas. If they go bust between now and then, you’re going to end up as an unsecured creditor and at the back of the line waiting for the unlikely event that you’ll get your money back.

Just because Brian Lenihan, the Minister for Finance and guarantor for most savings products in the country at the moment (from the banks), launched this product it doesn’t mean that there is any particular safety or guarantee for this particular savings scheme.

Some people may remember the huge Farepak Christmas savings club collapse in the UK in 2005 where savers in a Christmas club were out of pocket by nearly £38m. Today, 4 years later, savers still have to see any of their money as far as I can find out.

It will be interesting to see what safeguards will be part of this One4All scheme. Make sure you read all their terms and conditions fully before you get involved. When I find out any more, I’ll write more here.

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Check terms and conditions when handing over a deposit

We received this e-mail from a ValueIreland.com which shows the pitfalls that you could encounter when paying over a deposit for anything – a holiday in this case.

I’m having awful trouble with <name withheld> at the moment, I booked my honeymoon (of flights, accommodation & cruise) and paid a deposit of €500 with them back in Sept.

When I was trying to log onto the Royal Caribbean website to view my information it wouldn’t show up so I contacted them about it. When the girl came back to me it turned out that they never booked my cruise only held it and then it when back into the system so I lost my cabin.

Now they have none of the same cabins available and were trying to fob me off with some other room that I didn’t want so when I said I wanted to cancel my trip. They said they could only give me €250 back out of my €500 deposit as a good will gesture. They even reckon they don’t have to give me anything at all, even though they never booked my flights or accommodation as it’s for Jan 10 and they made the mistake.

I am so annoyed with them I contacted consumer affairs about it and they said I was right to get my money back so I’m waiting to hear back <name withheld>……just looking for some advice from yourselves.

Our immediate response wasn’t very positive. It all depends on what terms and conditions were in place when the deposit was handed over. If there were none specified, then it’s really down to a case of negotiations rather than anything specific having to happen.

I was interested to try to find out who the “consumer affairs” organisation was that said they should get their full deposit back – maybe the Consumers Association of Ireland or the National Consumer Agency. I don’t think that that’s a valid response in this scenario (unless they got more background information that I did).

It’s vitally important that if you’re handing over a deposit to a company then you should make sure that you agree with them upfront as to when the deposit could be returned, and when it could be withheld by the company.

But another complication in the current environment is that you should be wary about giving deposits to companies that might not be in business much longer. If you hand over a deposit, like vouchers, to a business that closes down then you become an “unsecured creditor” and join the back of the queue to get your money back.

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Getting around paying the Ryanair credit card surcharge?

There’s an e-mail doing the rounds at the moment with some advice as to how you might be able to get around the Ryanair credit card surcharge fee which is normally €5 per passenger per flight – €10 return. This is what I received earlier this week:

Just a tip for those of you who use Ryanair often. The airline charges 10 euro per person when booking flights by credit/debit card . There is a way around it though.

If you buy Ryanair vouchers on the website (very easy process) and then use the vouchers to buy your flights, there’s no extra charges for using your card.

When you buy the vouchers – You get the code immediately and then you just use that to pay for your flights therefore dodging the extra charges for use of debit/credit card.

You’ll have read previously that we’re not big fans of vouchers here at ValueIreland.com, so we checked this out a bit more.

This tip was mentioned on the UK MoneySavingsExpert forum before Christmas last year with no negative comments.

However, during 2008 there were a number of bad reports about consumer problems trying to redeem Ryanair vouchers – Pricewatch and Irish Independent – but that seemed mainly to do with the fact that it cost €1.75 per minute to call a number to actually redeem your vouchers. This is no longer now the case as you can redeem your vouchers online as part of the normal booking process.

So far so good then, until you read this account of problems in January of this year amongst readers of AskAboutMoney.com when trying to redeem vouchers.

So, some positives and some negatives. If you think it’ll be worth your while availing of this loophole, the you should at least finally check out the Terms and Conditions associated with the Ryanair vouchers – available here.

And after that, just remember, “buyer beware”.

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Leo Varadkar advocates consumers giving interest free 3 year loans to retailers

I was interested to read the results of a Fine Gael survey on gift vouchers. Leo Varadkar estimates that “€40 million worth of vouchers are never redeemed, representing a huge windfall for retailers”.

Seriously though – who’s fault is that? It’s hardly retailers fault that consumers don’t use gift vouchers presented to them? Or is it the retailers fault that a consumer gets a voucher and doesn’t bother making an effort to use it in the time period stated on the voucher?

Leo – cop yourself on! If I get a voucher that says I have three months to spend the cash, it’s my fault if I try to spend it in 4 months time, not the retailers.

If the terms and conditions on the vouchers are “unfair” or have the potential of “callously ripping off consumers” then isn’t it up to the consumers who purchase the vouchers to not actually buy them in the first place?

And as for your suggestion that there be a three year time expiry on vouchers, that’s nearly just as much of a gift to retailers as not using the vouchers at all.

In your proposed NCA supported fantasy world, giving a retailer €100 for a voucher now and allowing someone 3 years to spend it is the same as a 3 year interest free loan from the consumer to said retailer. And then take into account 5% inflation per year, the retailer only then has to hand over €85 worth of goods at the end of the loan period.

Shouldn’t you instead be encouraging consumers to use their vouchers as quickly as possible? It’s hardly good “enterprise or trade” to be encouraging consumers to be providing interest free loans to retailers with discounted repayment amounts?

Now, we know you’re only bringing this up because it was on Joe Duffy last week. He was talking about Muslims in Ireland today – when can we expect your press release on this?

Don’t you have anything better to be doing – like “marking” your counterpart who’s in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment at a time when we’re losing hundreds of jobs per week?

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