State may override local laws on gift certificate expiration

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    GOSHEN-The state is poised to step in and pass legislation taking authority away from local governments prohibiting expiration dates on gift certificates and gift cards. Two weeks ago, The Warwick Advertiser ran a story about gift cards and whether Orange County planned to follow Rockland County's lead and make it illegal to have the pre-paid gifts expire at any time. Orange County Legislator Michael R. Pillmeier said he would look into whether the issue has ever come up to the legislative body. He did not count out the possibility of bringing up the issue if constituents requested it. That may not be necessary. According to Antoinette Reed, legislative counsel, a bill has passed both houses of the New York State legislature and is sitting on Governor George Pataki's desk since Sept. 9. The proposed legislation requires disclosures on the gift cards and preempts local governments from enacting legislation regarding gift certificates. This bill makes it mandatory that a gift certificate or card display the expiration date and terms of any service fees. If Pataki signs the bill, Orange County would have no authority to pass a law prohibiting expiration dates on gift cards. It would also void Rockland County's legislation, which was passed last summer. The Rockland County law made it illegal to impose any maintenance fees on gift certificates or cards, as well as an expiration date. All gift cards and certificates would be valid until cashed in. Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said at the time the law took effect, "This law simply makes good sense. Since a gift card or gift certificate is paid for up front, the person receiving it should be able to use it whenever he or she wants."That makes perfect sense to most consumers and even many local business owners here in Warwick who do not enforce the expiration dates if one even exists on their certificates. But according to the state, this new law would require all expiration and maintenance information be included on the document. However, the law also preempts local governments from adopting laws of their own regarding gift certificates.