Gift cards are a popular present but they are also a rising cause of complaints, with Consumer Affairs Victoria receiving more than 60 complaints about gift cards between 1 January and 30 June 2013, doubling the 30 complaints received for the whole of 2012.
Consumer Affairs Victoria Director Claire Noone said common issues with gift cards include disputes about expiry dates and replacing lost or stolen cards.
"Gift cards can be hard to replace if lost or stolen, so treat the card as you would treat cash - keep it safe and don't forget it's there," Dr Noone advised.
"If you received a gift card this Christmas, set yourself a reminder to use it before the expiry date, so you use it before it expires to avoid disappointment.
"You can do this using Consumer Affairs Victoria's free MyShopRights app, which puts information on consumer shopping rights at your fingertips."
Available for iPhone and Android, MyShopRights enables users to set reminders for gift cards, lay-by and warranty expiry dates and store photos of receipts.
Dr Noone urged retailers issuing gift cards to show Christmas spirit throughout the year.
"Many businesses offer grace periods as a courtesy to their customers, but this is not universal practice," Dr Noone said.
"If your business offers a grace period after a gift card expires, make sure this is applied consistently in store."
A review of the Australian gift card market by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council in 2012 put the size of the Australian gift card market at $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion a year.
Businesses and shoppers can get information about shopping rights and download the MyShopRights app from our Shopping section.
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