Gift vouchers are popular and have certainly landed under the Christmas tree for many. In the meantime, they do not even stop at national borders within the EU. But are gift vouchers even allowed to be bought and redeemed in another EU country? When do they expire? The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) provides information.
Can I buy gift vouchers online in another EU country?
Yes. Since the end of unjustified geo-blocking, you can buy goods and services from traders based in another EU country. This also applies to vouchers. Keep in mind, however, that the seller is not obliged to deliver to Austria. Unless he delivers here anyway. The delivery problem arises especially with voucher cards, but not with electronic vouchers (futher infromation about geoblocking).
How long are vouchers valid?
In Austria the following applies: If the voucher was issued without a time limit, the voucher is valid for 30 years. However, shorter periods are possible as long as they are justified and the consumer is not disadvantaged in the process (e.g. by the period being so short that it becomes very difficult for the consumer to actually redeem the voucher).
In Germany, vouchers are normally valid for three years from the end of the year of issue. If the voucher was purchased on 1.12.2019, it can be redeemed until 31.12.2022. However, a shorter term is also possible. For example, if the trader has to reckon with high wage increases for the coming year or the event only takes place on a certain day.
While there is no expiry date for vouchers in Bulgaria, in France, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy and Latvia the expiry date is set by the trader. In Italy, in addition, in the absence of a stated expiry date, a maximum validity period of 10 years is regulated by law.
What happens when the voucher has expired?
In most EU countries, including Austria and Germany, there is no entitlement to renew the voucher or to have the money paid out. The exception is Denmark: here, electronic vouchers can still be refunded in the first year after they expire. However, some companies will extend the period of validity as a gesture of goodwill if you ask.
Can vouchers issued in one name be redeemed by other persons?
In Austria, personalised vouchers may only be redeemed by the person whose name is noted. In France, such vouchers can only be redeemed by third parties if the general terms and conditions expressly provide for this. And in Germany? If vouchers have been issued in a name, other persons may also use it. However, with restrictions: If the voucher is tied to certain conditions, e.g. health requirements for a parachute jump, the consent of the issuer is required if the voucher is to be transferred.
By the way: In Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands, the name does not have to appear on the voucher.
Can a gift voucher purchased in another EU country be redeemed in an Austrian shop of the same chain?
This depends on the company. Check the terms and conditions, or ask directly at the shop.
Who can I contact if something has gone wrong with my voucher?
If you have a dispute with a trader from another EU country, Iceland or Norway, then the European Consumer Centre Austria can help you.