Gift Card That Isn’t A Gift Card Can Ignore Consumer Laws

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There are some disadvantages to using gift cards, but there are some laws that protect consumers who buy and use them. California has the strongest laws of this type: gift card holders can ask a retailer to cash in a gift card at any time, for example. Yet what happens when something that seems like a gift card isn’t, and it isn’t regulated the way that you expect–even in California?

That state’s laws also dictate that gift cards can’t ever expire. That’s why a parent who bought a ten-visit card for a local indoor playground was confused when she saw that the pass would expire in six months. She brought it to CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming, who learned that stores don’t have to obey gift card law for something that isn’t a gift card.

A visit to this place, Climbaroo, normally costs $8-10 per visit, and the “VIP Play Pass” entitles the holder to ten visits. It costs $60, but is considered a “promotional pass,” and the company keeps track of a holder’s visits in their system apart from the physical card.

That’s a nice way around the law that normally dictates that gift cards can’t expire. The facility told CBS Sacramento that it generally allows bearers to use the cards past the printed expiration date, but leaving an unregulated “promotional pass” up to the discretion of the business owner is really against the spirit of California’s consumer protection laws.

Call Kurtis: Can Prepaid Cards for Services Expire? [Bloomberg News]

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