Some of New Zealand's biggest retailers have agreed to abolish expiry dates on gift cards in response to a Consumer New Zealand campaign.
Earlier this month the Weekend Herald revealed 10 major operators including Briscoes, Countdown, Kathmandu and New World had been issued with a request by the independent watchdog, asking them to scrap expiry dates on gift cards because Kiwis are losing up to $10 million a year on expired credit.
Three major outlets - Countdown, Kathmandu and Noel Leeming - have taken the lead and agreed to scrap expiry dates entirely, while New World and Toyworld have agreed to doubled expiry windows from 12 to 24 months.
Shoe Clinic has also extended the expiry date to five years on gift cards bought from its stores.
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin, who blasted "unfair expiry dates" and said she was willing to escalate the issue with Trade Minister Todd McClay, praised the action from Countdown, Kathmandu and Noel Leeming.
"It's a great response from these stores and shows expiry dates can be ditched without causing problems. They've set an example that we want others to follow," Chetwin said.
"With Countdown agreeing to drop the dates on its cards, we'd expect to see New World and Pak'nSave do the same."
Countdown spokeswoman, Kate Porter, said it is working through the necessary technical changes and wants to have the change made in time for the key shopping period of Christmas.
"Following a review of our gift card programme, we are pleased to confirm that we have made the decision to remove expiry dates on Countdown gift cards," Porter said.
"We are currently working through the IT requirements to remove the current expiry time frame and we are hoping to confirm a date before Christmas.
"In general we find that the vast majority of our customers use the full value of their gift cards before they expire, however we think that it would be helpful to remove the expiry date for those who need a bit longer."
Kathmandu's general manager of marketing, Paul Stern, said their move was easy and just formalised what they were doing already.
"We haven't had any direct issues with customers but have obviously had the feedback from Consumer New Zealand. We've taken some time to consider it and see it might be simpler for customers," Stern said.
"We've been honouring gift cards previously anyway. If people have come in with an expired card, we've honoured it. To remove the expiry makes it simpler for customers and we will continue to honour those cards with expiry dates."
Of the 10 major retailers Consumer NZ approached, three declined to make any changes at all. They are Briscoes, Prezzy Card and Westfield Shopping Centres, who said 12-month expiry dates will remain.
"It's a really disappointing response from these companies," Chetwin said. "We'll be asking them to reconsider and do the right thing by their customers."
Other retailers approached by Consumer NZ include Ticketek, which only provides a six-month expiry date on its gift card, and Paper Plus.
Paper Plus says it's reviewing its position. Ticketek has yet to respond.
Since the campaign launch, more than 5300 people have registered their support with Consumer NZ for an end to unfair expiry dates on gift cards.
A Consumer NZ survey also found a majority supported change. Most respondents felt gift cards should have no expiry date or, if there was one, it should be at least five years.
Other countries have regulations preventing retailers imposing unfair expiry dates. Most Canadian provinces have banned expiry dates. Gift cards in the US are required to have an expiry date of at least five years.