CONTACT:  Julie Willmot                        
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J.—Mercer County and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today reminded shoppers to know their rights about gift cards and item refunds and to check the national list of recalled toys before going online or to stores this holiday season.

“Part of being a smart shopper is knowing your rights as a consumer, and the tips below can help ensure that you get what you paid for and make your holiday shopping experience more rewarding,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.

Gift Cards:
  • No gift card or gift certificate can expire for 24 months after purchase;
  • No dormancy fee can be imposed within the first 24 months following purchase or within the 24 month period following last use of the gift card;
  • After 24 months of non-activity, the issuer may charge a maximum dormancy fee of $2 per month; and
  • The gift card must include a telephone number to call for information about its expiration date or dormancy fees.
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  • Retailers must conspicuously post their refund policy for all merchandise in one of the following locations:
  • Attached to the item itself;
  • Affixed to each cash register or at point of sale;
  • Situated as to be clearly visible to the buyer from the cash register; or
  • Posted at each store entrance used by the public.
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Store Lay-A-Way:
  • Know the terms of the store’s lay-a-way plan. Do not assume lay-a-way is free.
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Retailers must offer a raincheck to all customers when advertised merchandise is not available for purchase, unless the merchandise is advertised as being available in a specific quantity (i.e. “10 per store”) or in “limited supply.” When a raincheck is issued:
  • The retailer has 60 days to honor the raincheck, unless the consumer holding the raincheck agrees to an extension;
  • If the item costs more than $15, the retailer must give written or telephonic notice to the consumer when the item becomes available; and
  • After such notice is given, the item must be held for the consumer for at least 10 days or the end of the 60-day raincheck period (whichever is greater).
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Online Purchases:
  • Be certain the web site is secure or uses encryption before entering personal and credit card information; look for “https” in the web site address;
  • Print out a transaction record for each purchase and keep it to resolve any issues regarding the item being purchased; and
  • Do not click on links contained in unsolicited emails from supposed shopping web sites;
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Toy Safety:
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has authority to issue recalls for unsafe or dangerous toys. Consumers can check the list of recalled toys via the Division’s web site at
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Charitable Giving:
All charities doing business in New Jersey must be registered, unless the charity raises less than $10,000 annually and does not use paid fund raisers to solicit donations.

To verify whether a charity is registered, check the online registry maintained by the Division at

Know the warning signs of a scam. If you receive a telephone call from a charity asking for a donation:
  • Avoid being pressured into making an immediate donation;
  • Beware if you are offered a prize or gift in return for your donation;
  • Do not give credit card information to an unknown person over telephone; and
  • Never agree to have a messenger or delivery person come to your home to pick up your donation.
When receiving a solicitation for a donation by mail, remember:
  • Trinkets and other items accompanying the donation request are gifts. You are not required to send a donation because you received a trinket or item;
  • Be dubious if the charity claims you made a past donation or pledge but have no record of it; and
  • Ignore harassing letters that demand payment of a donation pledge that you have no record or recollection of making.
Consumers may file complaints with the Mercer County Office of Consumer Affairs at (609) 989-6671 or at or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within N.J.) or 973-504-6200.
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