Gift Vouchers

A gift voucher is a certificate which entitles the bearer of the voucher to exchange it for goods or services up to the face value of the voucher. There are three types:

  • those issued by trade associations (eg, Booksellers the USA, Motor Trade Association) to be used at any stores belonging to that association

  • those issued by a specific store which can only be used in that store or its branches

  • those issued by a specific store but which can be used at a number of stores that sell the same type of goods - eg, petrol stations, CD stores.

Gift vouchers

Change does not have to be given by the store unless the terms of the voucher specifically state that change will be given. It is up to you to use the voucher's full value. In some stores change will be given in the form of another voucher if the amount exceeds $5, or change if it is less than $5. If you are buying a gift voucher check the terms for using it.

Refunding a gift voucher
A voucher is issued by the store to buy goods and services at a later date. It is unlikely that a store will refund on a voucher. The store has no legal obligation to do this.

Voucher expiry date
A voucher may have an expiry date. Check for a date when purchasing to see if it will allow the person using the voucher a reasonable time to use it. A usual time period would be six - 12 months.

Lost voucher
If the voucher is lost, the store doesn't have to replace it. It's like losing a bus ticket, so it pays to keep the voucher somewhere safe. This situation could change if the voucher has been made out to you specifically and is not transferable to another person. In those circumstances the store may be bound to issue you a new one and cancel the original voucher.

Store closures
When the store that sold the voucher closes down, the voucher holder becomes an unsecured creditor of the business (refer to Consumer Information Shop closures page). The voucher is a liability the store has not met. If the store was a registered company, a liquidator will have been appointed to wind up the company.

Unsecured creditors must register their claim with the liquidator. Your claim will only be considered after all those of secured creditors.
In some cases - eg, if a store changes ownership or goes into liquidation - it is very difficult to get the gift voucher honoured. Here are some things you can do to minimise the risk of losing your money.

  • Buy vouchers that can be used at more than one store - eg, petrol vouchers, or ones that are issued by trade associations.
  • Before buying a voucher, ask the store if they have a trust account to protect voucher holders .
  • If you are given a voucher as a gift, use it as soon as possible.

company that sold the voucher to the store closes down
Sometimes part of a company's business is to sell gift vouchers to stores, which in turn are sold on to you. When the company that sold the voucher to the store closes down, you should go back to the store that sold you the voucher to ask them to honour it. If the store refuses to honour the voucher, you can make a claim in the Disputes Tribunal for the value of the voucher.

Store changes ownership
When a store changes ownership, the new owners are unlikely to have purchased the previous company's liabilities so they will not be bound to honour the voucher. The new owners can decide whether they honour the voucher or what else can be offered to you.

We recommend:

  • For stores issuing vouchers, consider keeping contact details of the person who purchased the voucher and recording the cancellation of vouchers against your list. If the business is going to be sold, people who have not used their vouchers could be contacted to come into the store to buy goods and services with the vouchers before it changes hands

  • Store owners should also consider reaching an agreement with the new purchasers of the business to take into account un-used vouchers.