Gift certificate lawsuit: Recent developments

Many retailers and shopping center landlords use gift certificates to construct brand loyalty. These prepaid purchase cards come in a number of types. They may be reloadable or otherwise. They might be “open-loop” stored-value cards you can use at any location that accepts network cards (for example Mastercard or visa). Or, prepaid credit cards could be “closed-loop” by which situation they are able to only be applied out a network of stores of the identical brand or in a single location.

Provincial consumer protection rules across Canada contain specific needs for providers of prepaid credit cards. Generally, prepaid credit cards don’t expire and charges are strictly restricted to changing or customizing gift certificates. Although charges for open-loop cards are possible, these charges are susceptible to recommended maximums. Additionally to federal rules, you will find federal Prepaid Payment Items Rules that affect items released by federally-controlled banking institutions.

This season is showing to become an essential year for prepaid credit card lawsuit. Two important choices happen to be made in Ontario and Bc. In Ontario, a legal court of Appeal came to the conclusion it had become easy to structure a prepaid services card to run out, notwithstanding prohibitions on expiry within the Consumer Protection Act, 2000 (Ontario) (CPA). Around the west coast, the Bc Top Court came to the conclusion that open-loop stored-value cards released by certain lending institutions yet others were controlled underneath the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (Bc) (BPCPA). However, a legal court rejected to approve a class action lawsuit regarding alleged non-compliance using the BPCPA for some other reasons.

Prepaid services can expire

In Ontario, a “gift card” is any voucher that’s released under a pre-balance credit card agreement that may be applied towards purchasing services or goods. A “gift card agreement” is any agreement where the customer pays entirely during the time of getting into the deal for services or goods that’ll be provided later on. Unless of course the present card is released for any specific good or service, or perhaps is released for any charitable purpose, the present card cannot come with an expiry date.

Like many telecommunications service providers, Bell Mobility sells prepaid credit cards for cell phone services. Customers can top-up their accounts once the balance of credits for unused minutes/texts or any other services fall below a collection threshold or even the plan’s going to expire. Underneath the plans, the customer would activate the bought credits for that plan period. While there’s no expiry date around the prepaid credit card accustomed to activate the program, once triggered, the help would simply be readily available for the program period. The customer forfeits any unused minutes unless of course the customer stretches the program by buying more credits.

In Sankar v. Bell Mobility Corporation., 2016 ONCA 242, the suggested class action lawsuit complaintant searched for to approve a class action lawsuit proceeding to challenge the expiry from the plan credits, amongst other things. A legal court declined the plaintiff’s argument the expiry and forfeiture of credits violated the CPA. A legal court came to the conclusion the rules stop an expiry date around the prepaid credit card itself. It had been perfectly acceptable underneath the rules to impose an expiry date around the services or goods bought using the prepaid credit card. A legal court characterised the objective of the present card rules as prohibiting the expiry of the future performance agreement prior to the seller has shipped the products or carried out the help guaranteed underneath the agreement. The help themselves might be time limited. A legal court gave the instance of using a gym for thirty days following the activation of the membership. A legal court came to the conclusion that what Bell Mobility had decided to provide underneath the agreement was accessibility bought wireless services inside a defined period. The credit card didn’t expire accessibility services did. Bell Mobility had satisfied its obligations once it made the help readily available for the defined period.

Open-loop stored-value cards caught by BC Regulations

On March 3, 2016, the Bc Top Court made a choice in Jiang v. Peoples Trust Co., 2016 BCSC 368, which introduced great news and not so good news for BC lending institutions along with other banking institutions offering open-loop stored-value purchase cards. The complaintant was alleging violations from the BPCPA by numerous banking institutions according of the stored-value cards. One of the complaints were the stored-value cards had expiry dates, and also the defendants billed charges more than limits underneath the rules and unsuccessful to supply the needed details about them.

The BPCPA defines “prepaid purchase card” as “a card, written certificate, or any other voucher or device having a financial value that’s released or offered to someone in return for the long run way to obtain services or goods to some consumer […].” The rules made underneath the BPCPA stop an expiry date and condition that the prepaid purchase card by having an expiry date is “redeemable” as though it didn’t come with an expiry date.

The suggested class representative had bought a non-reloadable card from the store. The credit card was a wide open-loop card released with a lender and recognized around the Visa network. The defendants contended the purchase of the stored-value card wasn’t “in exchange” for just about any future services or goods. It had been simply stored value that may be utilized on the Visa network. Further, the defendants contended the mention of word “redeemable” appeared to point out the anti-expiry rules were designed to affect gift certificates for products or services from the merchant as opposed to a stored-value card that may be used anywhere the stored-value card was recognized. Indeed, neither the Minister of Public Safety, and Business Practices and Consumer Protection, nor the Bc Consumer Protection Authority required the vista within their explanation from the law that these kinds of stored-value cards were susceptible to the rules. Furthermore, it was in line with solutions succumbed the Legislature through the government concerning the rules.

The motions judge didn’t accept this argument and held the complaintant were built with a reasonable reason for action. However, ultimately a legal court held that the class action lawsuit wasn’t a more suitable technique of handling the dispute because there wasn’t any method of figuring out whether someone acquired among the defendants’ stored-value cards for private or business reasons. They issue will have to be made the decision in every situation. Ultimately, because of this, a legal court declined to approve the class action lawsuit.


As the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision on expiry dates for fixed-term services in Sankar is nice news for retailers and providers, Dentons recommends caution in invoking expiry dates for products or services provided within prepaid purchase card. Sankar might be distinguishable. The credits for the reason that situation symbolized maximum use of something throughout a defined period. Retailers and providers are very well-advised to check on with a lawyer before applying this kind of arrangement.

As the defendants within the Jiang situation might have prevented the defendants facing a class action lawsuit, the court’s readiness to brush in most stored-value cards in to the rules regardless of whether or not they are merely general purpose is really a strong signal for banking institutions to carefully examine their compliance with gift certificate rules across the nation.