Gift Cards Pulled from New Jersey
AmEx, two others stop supplying to NJ due to new law.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: April 11th, 2012
t one time or another, you've probably either given or received a gift card—a prepaid amount for you or someone else to spend. But how often do those cards end up in the junk drawer in your home office, or buried in your wallet behind that credit card you use only for emergencies? Unused gift cards add up to a lot of "unspent" money, and New Jersey passed a law a couple years ago that has caused American Express and two other companies to pull their gift cards from shelves.
The law passed in 2010 "protects consumers" by forcing gift card companies to turn in unspent balances if the card has been inactive for two years. Sure, you can get it back, but it's a lengthy process.
"Maybe you've got a few unspent dollars here, five dollars there. Add it up, and you're looking at real money. And the state of New Jersey would be happy to hold onto it for you." -- Joel Rose, NPR
"You just have to acquire, file a claim, and you get the money back," says Andy Pratt, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Treasury.
But John Holum, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, is quick to point out that New Jersey is not going to track you down to give the money back. While several retailers fought the law, they lost, and now some suppliers are pulling their product rather than complying with the law.
Brooks Smith, the CEO of InComm, which supplies gift cards for Starbucks, Applebees, and iTunes, among others, said, "This lawn's already been mowed. There's nothing left for you to get. The gift card industry as a whole looks at this as a killer. The industry's out of business."
Pratt says the law requires retailers to track the zip codes of buyers in order for those customers to be able to claim their property, and the gift card industry is particularly upset about that provision. Still, Pratt says it's no different than any other pieces of data that companies already collect.
Still, we imagine this new development will lead to plenty more people giving cash as gifts, no gifts at all, or the unthinkable, getting to know their recipients a little bit better.