Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes and the County Division of Consumer Affairs is reminding consumers and businesses of laws aimed at protecting recipients of gift cards.

"Gift cards have become extremely popular, but recipients are often surprised by fees or rules associated with gift card use," said Hughes. "Mercer County is able to assist with questions about their use."

The "Gift Card Act" took effect in April 2006. This fairly new law requires that a gift certificate or gift card sold shall retain its full unused value until it is presented in exchange for merchandise and any and all conditions and limitations must be clearly disclosed. No gift card or gift certificate can expire for 24 months after purchase of the card. The law also restricts retailers from issuing "dormancy fees" until after two years from the time a gift card was purchased. In the past, so-called "dormancy fees" accrued if gift cards were unused for long amounts of time and, subsequently, those fees decreased the value of the card.

Also, consumers should read the fine print when purchasing gift cards or gift certificates. For instance, not all gift cards can be used to buy merchandise online, so be sure to ask.

Another law, the Refund Policy Disclosure Act, also aims at protecting consumers once they've made a purchase. Individual retailers are permitted to have their own refund policy as long as it is conspicuously posted at the point of sale (cash register) and is clearly visible to the buyer. If there is no policy posted it is assumed that the store will provide a cash refund for cash purchases or credit for a credit purchase, for a period of not less than 20 days after the date of purchase.

If you are experiencing problems with a Mercer County merchant and would like to discuss the situation or file a complaint, please contact the Mercer County Division of Consumer Affairs at (609) 989-6671.

Also, any concerns with possible recalled toys can also be verified by contacting that office or by visiting the Mercer County Website at www.mercercounty.org.