Monday, December 27, 2010

Virginia Guidance Regarding "Promotional Incentives"

Now that we're back from the holidays, it's time for most people to deal with the unintended consequences of the gift giving season:  rebates and returns.  While the latter is generally straightforward (to the extent that waiting upon an endless customer service line is straightforward) rebates can be trickier, for both consumer and unclaimed property professional.  For the consumer, there are several different considerations, depending upon the type of rebate:  mail-in or online; cash back or future purchase; etc.  To say nothing of special forms, expiration dates, and proofs of purchase.

For unclaimed property professionals, things are similarly complicated.  In some states, such as Virginia, there are unclaimed property exemptions for rebates and other "promotional incentives."  See Virginia Code Section 55-210.8.  However, there is generally some confusion among holders as to what these exemptions cover.  To provide some clarity, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued a memo to provide holders with guidance as to the scope of this "promotional incentives" exemption.

In sum, the memo emphasizes that no matter whether an item is labeled a "rebate" or not, holders seeking to invoke the promotional incentives exemption must meet a two part test:

1.  The incentive must be designed to influence the consumer to purchase goods and services; AND
2.  The consumer must provide no consideration, or less consideration than the value of the incentive.

The memo goes on to give a few examples of rebates that are, and are not, covered by the exemption.  Holders with Virginia rebates should read the memo in full.  For others, it is a timely reminder that labels are not determinative when it comes to unclaimed property.

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