Alberta bans expiry dates for gift cards
Alberta will eliminate expiry dates and inactivity fees for gift cards starting Nov. 1, making sure they keep their full value whenever they are redeemed.
"More than $1.2 billion worth of gift cards are purchased every year in the province, but $180 million of that goes unredeemed each year because of expiry dates and fees," Service Alberta Minister Heather Klimchuk said Wednesday.
"If someone buys a $50 gift card, it will be worth $50 no matter when it is redeemed."
The new rules, which will be part of Alberta's Fair Trading Act, forbid businesses from putting expiry dates on gift cards, gift certificates and vouchers, and eliminate inactivity fees, which reduce the value of gift cards if they stay unredeemed after a specified period.
The new rules also require businesses to print any restrictions on card use on the packaging and the card itself.
Businesses will be allowed to charge a one-time fee at the time the card is purchased. The regulation requires them to tell a customer about the fee and explain why it's being charged.
Business operators could face maximum fines of $100,000 or two years in jail for violating the rules.
Some shoppers at Edmonton's Kingsway Garden Mall said they were happy with the news.
"That's good because I've had to throw out a lot of them, because they do expire," said Britney Pearson. "Now if they don't expire, I can use them all year 'round."
"When we need it we can use it, right? That's good," said Maniperna Sandhi, who was shopping with her two young children. Sandhi said family members often give her gift cards as presents.
Ontario and Manitoba have passed legislation banning expiry dates and fees for using gift cards. British Columbia introduced legislation in the spring and expects to have new rules in place later this year.