Expired deal? Lost Groupon? Think again!
You just had to have that skydiving/tooth whitening/restaurant deal before it ran out. And here we are, one year + one day later. Wasted deal? Not necessarily!
Beginning in 2008 in Illinois, “all gift cards purchased on or after that date remain active for at least five years.” After that time, those balances can be “transferred to the Illinois Treasurer’s office as unclaimed property after the card has been expired for five years. Consumers then can contact the Illinois Treasurer’s office to reclaim the balance.” This amendment includes notification of fees and expiration dates, or a toll-free number to call if they are not posted.
Amendments to the Federal CARD Act back this up:
The final rules prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless: (1) the consumer has not used the certificate or card for at least one year; (2) no more than one such fee is charged per month; and (3) the consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees. Expiration dates for funds underlying gift cards must be at least five years after the date of issuance, or five years after the date when funds were last loaded.
But, does this extend to deals sites like Groupon? Reading Groupon’s own FAQ, indeed it does:
All is not lost! Once a Groupon reaches its expiration date, it loses its promotional value, but you can still redeem it at the price you paid for the length of time stated by gift certificate laws in your state.
Of course, all is not smooth sailing simply because a company posts this in its terms. Back in March, Chicagoan Eli R. Johnson filed against Groupon [and retail partners] for this very thing. It looks like it may be going the class action route, in which case the attorneys will be making the bulk of the cash on that deal.
Other sites like Living Social pony up, though in a different manner:
The Merchant is obligated to honor the Voucher in compliance with law. If the Merchant refuses to honor the Voucher before the legally permitted expiration date, then LivingSocial will refund the paid portion of your Voucher in the form of a credit for future Deals (what we currently call “deal bucks”).
Do “deal bucks” equal cash? No, but LS doesn’t lose out on your business, either.
Keep in mind that every card you get isn’t covered: Prepaid cards don’t fall under these guidelines, though they do have to disclose the fees. And if the business files bankruptcy [think Linens n’ Things], you also lose out. Some companies like Groupon provide an alternative, but read your rules carefully].
If nothing else — read the fine print before purchasing. But don’t think your deal is completely wasted — and don’t be afraid to ask for what you paid for!