Are businesses legally obliged to provide customers with receipts?

Reader who tried to use gift card was told it had all been used for maintenance fees

New laws governing the gift voucher industry came into force late last year. Photograph: iStock

New laws governing the gift voucher industry came into force late last year. Photograph: iStock

 

“I live in Belfast and I am not in Dublin too often and less often in Dundrum, ” writes a reader by the name of Eddie.

He was given a gift card for a shopping centre worth €50 a few years ago. “Some time passed and I went to Dublin to a niece’s birthday party and decided to use the gift card to buy her a present.”

So far so good. “When I presented the card and it was scanned, I was told there was no money left on the card. It had all been used for maintenance fees. I was asked, ‘Do I want the card back?’ and I said, ‘No, dump it’. That was my mistake as I now have no proof of what happened,” he says.

“Thinking back over the event, I realised that if a bank makes deductions from my account, these transactions are noted on my bank statement. If I had been able to use the gift card to buy something I would have been given a receipt acknowledging the cash deduction from the card. However, I was not given any receipt for the money taken from my card.”

He asks if it is legal for companies to do currency transactions and not issue receipts. “I know that you can do nothing for my case but perhaps this insight may help the people with the One4All vouchers.”

Maintenance fees

Eddie raises a couple of issues here – the issue of maintenance fees and the issue of receipts.

To the last item first.

A retailer does not have to issue a receipt. We contacted the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and were told that “there is no legal obligation under consumer protection law for a business to provide a receipt for the goods you buy. However, the vast majority of traders will automatically issue receipts to consumers or when requested by a consumer.”

The issue of maintenance fees on gift cards is not new.

New laws governing the gift voucher industry came into force late last year. They introduced a mandatory five-year expiry limit on all vouchers and clarified other elements of an industry which is worth hundreds of millions of euro annually. An early draft of the Bill had included a provision giving the Minister for Enterprise the power to set fees for the issue and replacement of gift vouchers and for “inactive balances” on gift vouchers.

That element of the bill did not make it across the line.

As it stands most gift cards have no maintenance fee for the first 12 months after which about €1.50 is deducted each month. The only way to avoid the fee as it stands then is to use the card quickly, something we appreciate is of little use to our reader at this stage.