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State-by-State Gift Card Laws

It is that time of the year when you hear a lot about gift cards and how they make such a great gift. But this year, the news surrounding gift cards has focused on retailer bankruptcies and their impact on gift card holders. Then there is the now famous misleading viral email warning consumers to stay away from gift cards issued by some major retailers, like The Home Depot and Ann Taylor due to the possibility their gift cards would become worthless should the retailers go bankrupt. 

In the midst of all this misinformation and anxiety about gift cards, it is therefore timely that Manhattan Advertising & Media Law, a Manhattan Beach, CA law firm, has put together an online gift card map that provides a state-by-state summary of gift card laws. Users can click on any state to read a brief summary of that state’s gift card statutes, including what happens to gift cards during bankruptcy and state law regarding gift card fees and expirations. 

The LA Times has a piece describing the map in detail. While I am excited about the state-by-state provisions on fees and expiration, I think readers will also find it interesting that only five states, California, Montana, New York, Oklahoma and Washington, have specific laws dealing with what happens to a gift card’s value when the card issuer goes bankrupt. However, as noted in the LA Times article, these State laws regarding bankruptcy and gift cards have proved ineffective in protecting gift card holders in bankruptcies. This may be why some are pushing for action at the federal level from the Federal Trade Commission.

Readers, from looking at the map, does your state have laws regarding gift card fees and expiration? If so, do they go far enough? If not, what would you like to see done? Please post your comments in the comments section below. 


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  1. Sam

    I researched this for my site because we featured Circuit City and was told that they will honor their cards in bankruptcy, but in most states it is the option of the retailer. It probably will depend on whether the store plans on ever exiting bankruptcy and needs to keep a customer base. Stores like Circuit City are optimistic. Stores like Steve and Barry’s… not so much.

  2. I represent a young black woman who appeared in a Honey Baked Hams store and was denied use of the gift certificate unless she spent 50% of the value of the gift certificate. When she inquired, she was the victim of racial discrimination and then battery when the front door of the establishment was closed in hr face an on her foot. California law says that she must be provided another gift certificate for the balance. [replacement gift certificate under California Civil Code 1749.5]

    Could you testify as an expert? Do you know a California expert?

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