Press Release
October 9, 2017

Merchants, issuers subject to stiffer penalties
Heavy fines, reimbursements & revocation of authority to issue gift checks (GCs)

"The new law has stiffer penalties to protect consumers. It provides that merchants who issue GCs in violation of the law can be slapped up to a million pesos in fines, obligated to reimburse the total value of GCs to holders and ordered that their authority to issue GCs be suspended or revoked," said Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, after the Bicameral Conference Committee meeting yesterday.

"GCs should be treated as real money or cash, so we ban putting an expiry date on gift checks, and, putting an expiry date on the unused value, credit or balance stored in the GC," Zubiri stressed.

"The Bicam conferees agreed that the policies shall uphold consumer rights, as follows: 'to protect the interests of the consumer, promote his general welfare and establish standards of conduct for business and industry; promote and encourage fair, honest and equitable relations among parties in consumer transaction and protect the consumers against deceptive, unfair and unconscionable sales acts and practices.' The law shall be interpreted in favor of the best interests of consumers," Zubiri stressed.

The panel agreed on a new definition of "Gift check, gift certificate, or gift card". It shall refer to "an instrument issued to any person, natural or juridical, for monetary consideration, honored upon presentation at a single merchant or an affiliated group of merchants as payment for consumer goods or services. The instrument can be in the form of paper, card, code or other device and shall remain valid until the cessation of business of the issuer."

Excluded from the coverage of the law are "GCs issued to consumers including but not limited to those under loyalty, rewards or promotional programs as determined by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)." The DTI shall have exclusive jurisdiction in the implementation of the GC law. The Implementing Rules and Regulations shall be promulgated by the DTI and other concerned agencies within 90 days from the effectivity of the GC law.

"The issuer and its accredited merchant may refuse to honor gift checks/certificates/cards under the following circumstances: (a) When the GC is lost due to no fault of the issuer; (b) When the GC is mutilated or defaced due to no fault of the issuer and such damage prevents the issuer from identifying the security and authenticity features thereof."

The stiffer penalties include a fine of not less than Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) but not more than One Million Pesos (PI,000,000.00). Violators of the GC law shall be obligated to return the unused balance of the GC within 90 days after the declaration of the violation by the DTI.

For the 2nd offense, in addition to the fine, the issuance of GC by the offending issuer shall be suspended for 3 months; for the 3rd offense, in addition to the fine, the issuance of GC by the offending issuer shall be cancelled.

"The benefits enjoyed by Senior citizens and PWDs will still be available. 'Promotional sales activities, loyalty programs, warranties, return policies for cash purchases, and discounts for senior citizens/persons with disability as provided for under the relevant laws and rules and regulations, shall apply likewise to purchases of goods and services that are paid with GCs.' "

"We will definitely push for the promulgation of the law and the approval of the IRR to make it timely as the Christmas shopping season comes," Zubiri said.

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