New Jersey goes after gift cards

Stored value cards (commonly referred to as "gift cards") have gone from a gift of last resort to a juggernaut of the retail industry.  These descendants of the paper gift certificates are now the number one holiday gift item, and sales of gift cards continue to increase this year.  Of course, as gift card sales have increased, governments have become more interested in regulating their use.  As has been widely reported, the Federal Credit CARD Act of 2009 imposed new requirements on gift card issuers relating to the assessment of dormancy fees (e.g., fees assessed for inactivity) and expiration dates.  Less reported has been the gradual expansion of state unclaimed property laws to inactive or unused gift card balances.

Earlier this summer, New Jersey joined the list of states whose unclaimed property laws expressly apply to gift cards.  New Jersey Assembly Bill 3002 (effectively July 1, 2010, but expressly retroactive) imposes a dormancy period of 2 years for gift cards.  The new law also requires gift card issuers to obtain the name and address of the card purchaser or owner.  Accordingly, for cards sold to New Jersey residents, the state will take custody of unclaimed gift card proceeds if there has been no activity on the card for two years.  Both the short two year dormancy period and the requirement to obtain purchaser name and address information are marked departures from most state laws.

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