Legislature’s “gift” to you

Lauren Ruhland, MCPP intern

Gift certificates (now virtually always in the form of plastic cards) are a popular solution for the clueless holiday shopper who is unwilling to stoop to stuffing a fistful of bills in an envelope.  If you’ve got lots of gift card givers among your family and friends, the state of Michigan will have a little present for you– just in time for Christmas.  Beginning November 1, gift card vendors must accept gift cards for five years from date of purchase and can no longer charge maintenance fees.  The law’s provisions range from reasonable (information about the card’s restrictions must be made available to consumers) to excessive (vendors must present this same information in all advertisements for gift cards.)

I was surprised to see that so many other states have similar (or more daunting) gift certificate regulation.   Many more have interesting proposals in the pipeline, too:  Illinois House Bill 4917 proposes that all gift certificate balances of less than $10 be redeemable for cash.  Maryland’s House and Senate are both looking at bills that would declare gift certificates abandoned after a certain period of time– at which point “a specified percentage of the remaining balance” would be turned over to the state Comptroller.

The whole point of the Michigan law is ostensibly to protect consumers, but commenter J sub D over at Reason’s Hit & Run notices that the state is willing to leave its own lottery consumers vulnerable to a one-year redemption deadline on winning lottery tickets.


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