It can be difficult to know what to buy someone for a celebration or special occasion. Perhaps you are thinking of buying a gift card for a friend and family member. Here’s a reminder about what the law in BC says about expiration dates and fees when it comes to gift cards.
An overview of the gift card laws in BC
In BC, there is a law called the Prepaid Purchase Cards Regulation – we oversee this law and it outlines rules about gift cards. The following chart about gift card expiration dates and fees might come in handy when you’re doing your shopping. If you want to know more about BC’s gift card law (there’s a lot more to know!), explore the gift card information on our website.
Have a question about BC’s gift card law? Leave us a comment below!
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28 thoughts on “The gift of gift cards”
I have a vendor, a cafe near where I work who is now refusing to accept gifts that were issued by the previous owners. The cafe is still operating under the same name. It’s my understanding that this cafe should still honour the gift cards. Would you confirm?
Good morning Sara — Unfortunately this is something that is not spoken to under BC’s gift card law, so I wouldn’t be able to say whether or not the business is legally required to accept your old gift cards. If you want a legal opinion, there is a good service from the Canadian Bar Association of BC that gives you 30 minutes of a lawyer’s time for $25 — here’s information about this service: http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Lawyer-Referral-Service I hope this helps!
what is the law regarding using remaining funds from gift card to leave a tip for a spa service. I was refused by a company saying it was illegal??
Hi Liz, Prepaid Purchase Cards Regulation does not specify if leaving a tip with gift card is legal or illegal. However businesses are allowed to set policies around what consumers can or cannot use the gift cards for as long as it is notified to the consumer when the gift card is purchased. For example, businesses can print on the gift card that it cannot be used for tips. So you may want to check the gift card and see if these conditions are listed.
I hope this information helps, if you have any further questions please feel free to give us a call at 1-888-564-9963.
It was my understanding that if I bought a gift certificate from a spa that it could not expire as it is a caah transaction? It does bot matter if it is for service or product as long as was purchased vs promotional
Hi Michelle, if the gift card specifies that it is for a manicure service or massage and no dollar value is provided, it can expire. The Prepaid Purchase Cards Regulation mentions this particular issue here – http://bit.ly/2hNpnpR
If you have any further questions about a specific gift card you have, please feel free to contact us at our toll-free number, 1-888-564-9963. Thank you Michelle!
My son received a HMV gift card for Christmas.
HMV has since declared bankruptcy and are closing.
When he went today to redeem his card for product in the store (they cancelled his preorder), they refused it, saying they are bankrupt.
If they have store product, are they not legally required to honour their gift card?
Hi Margo, thank you for your question. While the gift card law that we are responsible for doesn’t address this issue, we actually wrote a blog post on a topic similar to what you are asking. It’s called: What would you do? A guide to being a savvy gift card consumer. (You can read it here: https://goo.gl/Y9558u).
Typically when a business is going into receivership they would fall under new ownership and would not be required to honour purchases made under the previous ownership, but I’m not positive if this is the case with HMV. After taking a look on their website, it appears as though gift cards were being honoured until February 28, 2017 and as of March 1, 2017, HMV gift cards are no longer being accepted as a form of payment. Here is the link to that page on their website: https://www.hmv.ca/en/Info/GiftCardAgreement.
If you are interested in legal advice as your next step, the Canadian Bar Association of BC gives you access to 30 minutes of a lawyer’s time for $25 — here’s information about that: http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Lawyer-Referral-Service. I hope this helps!
Hi Joy, thank you for your questions. If you purchase a gift card as a gift for a relative it is not considered to be “charitable”, so it should not be allowed to expire unless it is for a specific good or service (like a haircut). Gift certificates that are issued by a municipality should fall under the same rules that govern retail gift certificates, that being said, there are exceptions and expiry dates are sometimes allowed. If you would like more information on these exceptions and the gift card law in BC, this link may be helpful to you: http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/oic/oic748.pdf
We also wrote another blog post that you might find useful on gift cards: http://bit.ly/2mOYfIw
I hope this information is helpful to you!
If you purchase a gift certificate for a relative, does that fall under the charitable purpose and then the gift certificate can have an expiration date?
Also are gift certificates that are issued by a municipality ie from a recreation centre fall under the same rules that govern retail gift certificate purchases?
If I purchase a gift card that is tied to a product eg a haircut, do I have to pay taxes when purchasing the gift card for this service/product or when redeeming the gift card?
Hi Anna, thank you for asking the question! With a gift card that is for a specific product or service (such as a haircut), you would have to pay taxes when purchasing the gift card. Whereas if the gift card has a dollar value, then a consumer would pay the taxes when redeeming the gift card.
Gift cards purchased for Guildford Mall in Surrey BC (redeemable at any business operating within the mall) reduce in value every month until the gift card is $0. Is this legal?
Hi Adam, thanks for your question. It sounds like you’re talking about a mall card. Typically, “mall cards” are for a shopping mall and can be used at multiple unaffiliated sellers within the mall. Mall cards are allowed to charge fees in BC but the issuers must inform the purchasers about the extra fees. At the time of purchase, mall cards may charge up to $1.50 service fee and post-purchase fees may begin 15 months after purchase (of a maximum of $2.50 per month). We’ve written a blog post about this if you’re looking for more information: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/2015/10/what-happened-to-the-balance-on-my-gift-card/. Please let me know if you have any questions!
If I purchased a gift certificate from salon for mani pedi in December but prices have increased since by $10 do I have to pay the difference In increase or does the salon lose out on those extra $10
Hi Liz, thank you for your question! This is certainly a tricky situation. The consumer protection law in BC specifies that this kind of information needs to be clear at the time of purchase. If the fine print on your gift card or receipt doesn’t specify, you may be able to ask the business to wave the extra $10. If you still have questions or concerns after talking to the business, please feel free to give us a call. Here are ways to contact us. Thank you!
I purchased a gift card for a Spa in Victoria. It closed its doors with only a few weeks notice to customers, stating that the new owners of the hotel property it was located on wanted to rebrand the spa. I called the spa before it closed and was told that I could receive a refund on my gift card if I came in and filled out paperwork, which I promptly did. I was initially told I would receive a cheque by mail, but it could take up to 8 weeks. I was told to hang onto the card as proof and at the same time was given contact information for the sister spa in Alberta. Well, I haven’t received a cheque, and calls and emails to the sister spa have not been acknowledged or returned. I did everything I was asked to do. The spa that I purchased the gift card for did not go bankrupt. It doesn’t seem fair that I lose money to a business in this way. There was no product available to purchase, and no spa appointments available prior to their closing date. Any suggestions?
Hi Brenda, sorry to hear about your experience. It seems that you have done everything you can do to get your money back. At this point, I don’t really have any other suggestions other than contacting your credit card provider. I’m not sure when you purchased the card but you could always try to get a charge-back on your card. I hope they will be able to help you – here’s a blog post we’ve written about how to get your money back on your credit card.
I am an employer who just purchased gift certificates for my staff on Dec 14, 2020. These were purchased from a catering company in Victoria. Each gift card entitles the bearer to a make selections from a number of pre-cooked meals. It’s a convenient “heat and eat” situation. Each card comes with a set dollar value and an expiry date declared to be December 31, 2021. Is it acceptable to place an expiry date on these cards in this situation?
Hi Ian, first of all, that is a great gift idea! And hearing that each gift card has a set dollar value (i.e. $100), they should not expire. If the gift card says “This gift card entitles the bearer to 3 meals” then they can expire. It’s possible that the company is unaware of the gift card laws in BC. Please contact the company and directly and have a talk, if you have any issues with them taking out the expiry dates, please contact us again and submit a complaint.
Are gift cards subject to Environmental Handling Fees now?
I was just charged an Environmental Handling Fee of $1.30 on a $6.99 Nintendo Gift Card.
I can’t find anything online that suggests gift cards are subject to Environmental Handling Fees and it feels wrong to me.
The card was purchased through Amazon and the order is filled by Amazon and qualifies for Prime – so no shipping fee.
I am considering asking for a refund on the $1.30 I paid, but Amazon is a big business, who knows how many thousands of people they might be collecting this fee from. Who is responsible for overseeing how these fees are collected and disbursed?
Hi Carol, thank you for posting your question here. I’m not familiar with the Environmental Handling Fees but a quick web search shows that Recycle My Electronics (or EPRA) is the organization that oversees this in BC. Here is their website and contact information. I hope they can point you in the right direction!
What about this scenario?
Old manager’s where I work were issuing Gift Certificates rather than charging our proper ‘Cancellation Fee’. They offered the guests a certificate for their cancellation fee rather than charge them properly and then gave the customer a promotional gift card for a dollar value and state it has no cash value with an expiry date.
I.E This entitles “john Smith” to spend $35.67 at the resort, with a promotional certificate number, and expiry date. (States ‘No cash value’) and was technically ‘gifted to the guest’ as they were charged for breaking their cancellation policy.
Rather than deal with just taking the cancellation fee, they made ‘promotional’ gift certificates for the dollar value. No actual purchase. Just a cancellation fee charged and promotional certificate offered to book within 1 year.
This is grey between, promotional or not because it is technically a gift offering to book within a year and the payment was taken for the cancellation policy….
Hi James, thank you for your question! Sounds like these promotional gift cards are similar to credits and won’t fall under BC’s gift card law. It’s really up to the resort to decide on the expiry date and how it can be used. I hope this information is helpful to you!
I was given a gift card for a car wash as a goodwill gesture from my office’s property manager.
The gift card does not have an expiry date or any terms and conditions.
I had forgotten about the card and tried redeeming it. The business would not honor it saying it was over a year old (it was roughly 55 weeks after the date of issue noted on the card).
Should the business honor the gift card?
Hi there, thanks for your question. Gift cards for a specific service (ie: one haircut or a car wash) are allowed to expire. Gift cards with a dollar amount, however, are not allowed to expire (ie: $50 to a gas station). You can learn more about gift card laws in BC by visiting this page: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/consumer-help/consumer-information-gift-cards/#Can%20my%20gift%20card%20expire . I hope this helps!
Hello, yes I have read that gift cards for a specific service can expire. My question is when there is no expiry date or terms and conditions on such card whether the business can, at their discretion, refuse to honor the gift card.
Thanks for clarifying your question. This specific situation isn’t covered by BC’s gift card laws, so the business my choose whether or not to honour the gift card according to their policy. Hope this helps!