WHATEVER is on your Christmas wish list, you’re sure to get a coupon from at least one person – probably the one who gave up everything at the last minute or found it hard to buy.
Voucher is flexible, convenient and can make a great gift, but despite new consumer protection laws, there are still big gaps in what types of vouchers are included and where you might still be missing your rights.
Under the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act, which came into force in December 2019, a retailer must offer at least five years of use before the voucher expires.
In addition, you are entitled to use more than one voucher for a purchase (some stores had previously insisted that each voucher must be used for separate purchases) and you are entitled to either cash, e-transfer or vouchers e.g Items that cost less than the value of the voucher.
The company decides what these are.
However, not all “coupons” are technically coupons, and customers find it confusing to distinguish between them. So when giving or receiving, make sure you know what’s what.
Different voucher types
You might think that a “Coupon” is self-explanatory. It’s just an exchange for money for an item, right? Well, the reality can be different.
Is it a gift card, gift certificate or voucher? Maybe it’s a debit card or instead of a refund? Not all are the same and not all have the same consumer rights.
Shop Voucher: This is intended for use in a specific store, retailer, department store or chain. It can be local or nationwide. An example would be a coupon from a local hair salon, spa, or restaurant. Also included would be a voucher from Argos, Boots or Brown Thomas, for example – these can be used in any of their branches, but only in their shops.
Shopping voucher: This is for use in any store within a given center and cannot be used in stores outside of the center.
These are the only types of vouchers covered by the above legislation. All your rights are protected.
However, if you have one of the following types instead, things are not so clear cut.
Shopping center voucher, not limited to the city centre: the voucher entitles you to shop in every shop in the city centre, but also outside of it.
E-money vouchers: These are prepaid debit or credit cards and can be used anywhere a debit or credit card is used.
These fall under separate legislation. They are not “vouchers”.
One4All: While this is very popular and widely available, it is not a coupon. It’s a gift card. This is legally considered an e-money card and does not fall under the voucher legislation. Not only that, but you have to pay for it too – a flat fee of €2 when you buy it, plus 50 cents for follow-up cards. It also charges an inactive balance fee (see below) which can drain you out of your pocket if not used correctly.
Coupon: A coupon received as a discount or as an introductory offer for a business is a voucher for a discount. It is not a voucher and may carry separate conditions.
loyalty cards: Points or vouchers that you receive when shopping at a specific supermarket, café or cinema are not vouchers. The store may restrict usage (although they rarely do) but may say, for example, that you can’t use it during peak hours or that you can’t use it to buy alcohol or vouchers.
Day vouchers: If you engage with a site that offers daily deals like Groupon or Pigsback, you may receive a token or voucher to make part of the payment for a good or service. This is also not a coupon and you can specify that it must be used within a specific time or for a specific product.
For example, if you “purchase” an offer for afternoon tea for two at a hotel, you cannot use it for dinner or accommodation instead.
In any case, however, your basic statutory rights when purchasing goods and services remain unaffected and are not affected by sales prices or discount campaigns. If something doesn’t work, isn’t as advertised or isn’t as described, you’re entitled to your money back, but it’s limited to what you paid for, not current value.
I have never understood or been satisfactorily explained the practice of charging for non-use. It’s a swizz, and the consumer loses every time.
If you don’t use a voucher (which you’ve paid for in full) within a certain period of time, typically 12 months, a store or center is allowed to charge you a monthly fee for… well, I have no idea.
Since it can average €3 a month, that means a €40 voucher will only have €4 left after a year.
It’s not uncommon to lose sight of gifts this time of year, so it’s terrifying to find out they’re worth less than you thought when you get to use them.
A gift card is technically a cash substitute. If you lose it, you’re on your own. However, some gift card providers, especially mall ones, will make a replacement card available – at a hefty cost.
E-scooters are not good gifts
We don’t have Santa Claus visiting the house anymore, but if we did, he definitely wouldn’t bring down the chimney: an electric scooter.
I see them on my way to work, whether in the car or on the bus, weaving, weaving in and out of traffic, ignoring lanes, traffic lights and other vehicles, and mostly fully clad in dark clothing and no helmet wear.
It’s hard to believe, but this is completely illegal.
By law, no one is allowed to ride a scooter on public roads. But have I ever seen a Lake Garda run over you, give you a ticket or confiscate you?
There’s no license, lighting, registration, insurance, tuition, or even age limit for the scooters, which can go up to 15 mph – more than enough to kill the rider and cause serious harm to pedestrians.
But if I, a careful driver on the right lane, fully insured and legally compliant, dodge one of them, who’s to blame? I am of course.
Unfortunately, e-scooters will be legalized, possibly before the end of the Dáil term.
There is no indication yet of what such a law might entail, but the Road Traffic and Roads Act is in its final stages.
The Taoiseach has acknowledged that there are serious safety issues with e-scooters, so I’ll be awaiting the final bill with interest… as will all road users.
In the meantime, buying for children is almost irresponsible and parents themselves are to blame if their teenager is involved in an accident.
The Quinn documentary was a painful watch
LIKE many other people, I watched Quinn Country, the most recent RTÉ documentary
Anger and disgust at Sean Quinn’s whining.
He painted a picture of a tragic victim being attacked and injured by those around him.
No, he wasn’t talking about the horrific attack on Kevin Lunny, who was kidnapped and tortured in a trailer, but about himself. Well, actually we are all victims of Mr Quinn and his gambling addiction.
The Quinn levy is a 2 percent surcharge (not insignificant given today’s rampant inflation) on every premium everyone pays for auto, home and other types of general insurance to salvage their expensive bet – and what else worse, we will pay them by 2038.
If you’re looking for victims, Mr. Quinn shouldn’t have a mirror.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/gift-voucher-laws-what-you-need-to-know-before-giving-or-receiving-a-gift-card-this-christmas-42212793.html Gift Certificate Laws: What you need to know before giving or receiving a gift certificate for Christmas