Have you been tempted to buy online coupons, called “daily deals”? They are offered for spa treatments, restaurants, “boot camps”, hair salons or any one of a huge variety of other tantalizing things for half price or more. Maybe you bought one but didn’t use it. Maybe you threw it away because you thought it expired.
Good news. You can still use it or at least get your money back. Do talk to the merchant because they really sold you a gift certificate, even if it were called a coupon by Groupon, Living Social, Google, Amazon or any of the other 40 providers in the Austin area or the over 500 providers nationwide.
It’s a good chance the spa, restaurant, bakery, etc. didn’t realize that this was a gift certificate. But, it is. You paid for it and under Texas and federal law it’s your property indefinitely.
Yes, indefinitely. If you paid for the coupon, it falls under Texas’ Stored Value Card Act and has to be treated just like any other gift certificate. So, like other gift certificates, the merchant has to honor it for five years.
If you haven’t used it in that time, it still belongs to you. But after five years, it falls under Texas’ Unclaimed Property Laws and the merchant has to turn over the total amount you paid to the Comptroller’s Office. Then the Comptroller lists it at https://txcpa.cpa.state.tx.us/up/Search.jsp and you can claim it.
This is not just true in Texas. There are federal laws, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, that make electronic coupons the permanent property of the purchaser. At last count, there were over 14 state class action suits against Groupon and 2 against Living Social related to this issue and deceptive trade practices. These suits include the merchants who used these “coupons” as a method to attract customers.
If you are a merchant and are considering using online coupons, you can learn more about your responsibilities by watching the Business Success Center’s YouTube video “Do No Harm with Daily Deals” at http://www.youtube.com/user/runitright#p/a/u/0/mmyXRmm2mAA.
If you are a consumer or a merchant with questions, please email me at triplett [at] ownersview [dot] com. Ms. Lehman and I are also happy to give our presentation to any interested group. Just contact me.