BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–The state attorney general is investigating a popular gift certificate distributor over accusations the company may be posting illegal expiration dates.
Simply Certificates has been selling gift certificates at most of the area malls for more than 15 years, but in recent years, consumers have been complaining about the company’s failure to respond to complaints.
Chris Drongosky, a former Simply Certificates executive said that recipients who use their Simply Certificates before posted expiration date should be okay, but Drongosky pointed out the gift certificates are required to last for at least 5 years.
“Gift certificates, whether they are plastic gift cards or paper gift certificates, under state law and federal law, have to have a 5-year expiration date from the time they were purchased.”
Drongosky displayed a Simply Certificate he said he bought recently that lists an expiration date next November, “Valid through 11/01/2021,” which is obviously not the 5 year duration required by law.
But consumers have complained when they try to contact the owner of the company, Bob Lynn, their calls are generally not returned, and the company’s website indicates says customers must pay a $5 restocking fee, by cashier’s check or money order, to get their gift certificate re-issued, along with a $4.95 charge for postage and handling, and the gift certificates have to be sent certified mail.
Drongosky said it could cost more to replace a gift certificate than it is worth, “So that $10 gift certificate you have is going to cost you $13 to $14 to get re-issued. Is anybody going to do that? No.”
The federal law governing gift cards and gift certificates is called the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, the Credit CARD Act.
Lawrence Schantz, the Director of the Office of Unclaimed Funds for the New York State Comptroller’s Office said, the state has even tighter restrictions.
“In New York, there is a two-year period where companies cannot charge monthly fees. So up until the 25th month there can be no fees charged against these gift cards.”
By law, expired or unused gift cards are supposed to be turned over to the State Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds.
Consumers can try to reclaim monies from their expired gift cards or gift certificates by clicking on this link to the Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds.
If Simply Certificates fails to respond to your request for a replacement voucher, customers can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 716-853-8404, or click on the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint webpage.