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While gift cards remain a popular choice this holiday season, the Consumer Protection Office is reminding local shoppers of their rights.

Most gift cards issued in Manitoba can never expire with only a few exceptions. Gift cards may have an expiry date if they are issued for a specific good or service, like a manicure or a massage. They may also expire if they are given out for free, such as for a promotion or in a raffle prize.

In Manitoba, purchasers cannot be charged a fee when buying a gift card unless it is to personalize or replace a lost card. An activation fee cannot be charged to use the card or an inactivity fee for choosing not to use the card for some time. Keeping a copy of the receipt in case there are any problems with the card, such as failure to activate, is also a recommended practice.

When a gift card is received, treat it like cash and keep it in a safe place, but somewhere it won’t be forgotten.

Different rules may apply to prepaid cards from banks and credit card networks, such as Visa and MasterCard, as they are regulated by the federal government. Consumers should read all terms and conditions, and take note of what fees they may be charged before choosing to purchase those types of prepaid cards.

The Consumer Protection Office investigates complaints about gift cards. Businesses that fail to comply with the rules related to gift cards may be subject to administrative penalties that range for $1,000 to $20,000. For more information about gift cards, prepaid cards and other payment options, visit www.gov.mb.ca/cca/cpo/cards.html.

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