Fianna Fáil Enterprise Spokesperson Dara Calleary says the Government is failing consumers by not introducing adequate legislation to give gift vouchers the same status as cash for retail purchases.

Deputy Calleary says Irish consumers were hit badly this year when a number of high profile retailers went into administration and thousands of customers were left out of pocket when some companies refused to honour in-store gift vouchers.

Deputy Calleary commented: “This weekend marks the real start of the Christmas shopping season throughout the country. Last year thousands of people received gift vouchers from retailers as Christmas presents. Unfortunately less than a month later, some, including high-profile names, went into administration and customers were left high and dry as these company gift vouchers were not honoured.  These experiences left a bitter taste in the mouth for many.

“There was no legal basis for customers to receive any of the value of the vouchers back, even though they had been paid for in advance. At the time I proposed that this anomaly in our consumer legislation needed to be addressed immediately. However, nine months later the Consumer Competition Bill has still not come up for debate in the Dáil.

“Yet again the Government is failing to realise the seriousness of the situation. The gift card industry is worth €250 million to the Irish economy each year. Consumers will be extremely reluctant to purchase in-house gift cards because of previous experiences and I hope this doesn’t affect Christmas sales.

“In comparison consumers are protected by e-money regulations with multi-store gift cards. This double standard is dangerous and it is incumbent on the Government and Minister Richard Bruton to address this urgently.

“Consumer confidence is fragile at the moment and we don’t want a repeat of what happened previously. Fianna Fáil has proposed an amendment that gift vouchers bought within a certain period would be given the same consideration as cash.

“I am alarmed at the lack of urgency here by the Government. Many retailers depend on the Christmas period and any issues that may affect consumer spending need to look at with the utmost seriousness.”