Ortiz to Protect Holiday Shoppers

December 2, 2003
Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (D-51st) is looking to make the holidays a little brighter for everyone this year by protecting our wallets. Gift cards, which work much like gift certificates with a fixed amount of money issued to it by the purchaser, have become increasingly more popular over the past several years. Cards are purchased by shoppers in $20, $50 or $100 denominations or more and given as a gift in place of cash, similar to a gift certificate. The card is then used by the recipient to purchase items at stores much like a credit or debit card would be used, by swiping the card through a scanner and deducting purchases from the preset balance.

With the rising popularity of these gift cards many consumers are unaware of the hidden charges concealed within these gifts. Many retailers charge a monthly fee ranging from $1.50 to $2.50 if the card is not used during a specified time frame. These time frames can run anywhere from six months to two years and many individuals are completely unaware of the diminished value of their gift until they are at the counter in the midst of purchasing items. This practice is deceiving and clearly unfair to the many hard working consumers that spend their pay checks to buy something special for their loved ones during the holiday season.

Ortiz has introduced legislation that would put an end to this type of business, and put money back in the hands of New York consumers. The Ortiz bill would prohibit retailers from charging a monthly fee on balances of gift cards thereby diminishing the value of gift cards if they are not redeemed within a specified time frame.

"Consumers spend their hard earned money on these gift cards assuming the recipient of their gift will be able to enjoy it at its fullest capacity, and that is the way it should be. As a consumer myself I find gift card service fees very offensive and extremely consumer unfriendly," said Ortiz.