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Gift cards are good for 5 years; gift certificates, good for 2 years

For Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By June Watanabe

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:48 a.m. HST, Jul 26, 2011



Question: I recall reading about a law regarding gift certificates issued by stores that there could not be a short expiration date or that there now was no expiration date. Can you provide some information on that? I have a gift certificate my friend bought for me last year that says it expires after one year. The shop owner said she would allow me to use it this time, but insists she does not have to honor it past the one-year expiration date.

Answer: The shop owner is a couple of steps behind the law.

Any gift certificate in which the issuer was paid “the full banked dollar value” for future purchases of goods or services should be good for at least two years.

State law was changed July 1, 2010, requiring electronic gift cards issued from that date on to be good for at least five years. Before that date they were supposed to be good for at least two years.

Federal gift card regulations also changed on Aug. 22, requiring the five-year expiration date.

However, state law — Section 481B-13 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes — makes a distinction between electronic gift “cards” and paper gift “certificates.”

Paper gift certificates are not covered by the five-year expiration period, but must be honored for at least two years from the date of issuance, said Aquilino Idao, supervisory investigator with the state Office of Consumer Protection.

Also, he said gift cards issued before July 1, 2010, are not grandfathered in — those would be good for only two years.

If there is no date on gift certificates/cards, they are considered “perpetual,” or good “until the business closes,” Idao said.

The two- and five-year expiration requirements do not apply to gift certificates issued as part of an awards, loyalty or promotional program or to a nonprofit charity, where no money or “anything of value” is given in exchange for the certificates.

The new law, meanwhile, does allow restaurants or retailers to charge a one-time activation or issuance fee of 10 percent of the value of the gift certificate, to a maximum of $5. However, it does not allow them to charge a service fee, such as a fee for dormancy or inactivity.

If a business is refusing to honor a valid gift certificate/card, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 587-3222 or go to hawaii.gov/dcca/ocp/consumer_complaint.

Question: Lately I’ve been noticing a white, late-model vehicle with city-county license plates and seals on the door on an almost a daily basis at my condominium. Who can be contacted if I have a question regarding this vehicle parked in my condo parking lot during work hours?

Answer: Based on the photo and license plate number you provided, the city has opened an investigation, said Jim Fulton, executive assistant to Mayor Peter Carlisle.

“If inappropriate use of the vehicle occurred, some type of administrative disciplinary action will be taken,” he said.

If anyone has a concern regarding the use of city vehicles, email complaints@ honolulu.gov or call 768-4381.

MAHALO

To the quick-acting young lady crossing Maunakea at Beretania streets Thursday afternoon, July 7. A little dog with a red leash got away from its elderly owner and wandered directly into the path of cars. This good Samaritan quickly responded by signalling oncoming cars to stop as she cautiously made her way after the dog, then agilely managed to catch the dog by its leash, returning it safely to its owner with a smile. A mahalo also to attentive drivers who saw this quickly unfold and were prepared to stop safely. This was the last day of my trip home after a two-year absence and a wonderful thing to witness.

— A Kamaaina

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.






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