Is my groupon voucher really expired?
March 30, 2012 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Washington state law says gift certificates you buy can't have an expiry date. What does that really mean for the groupon, etc. vouchers I purchased that have expired?

The merchant fulfilling a voucher I bought (actually from Tippr, but same kind of setup) told me I can't transfer my voucher to anyone else, which annoyed me and doesn't seem to be in the terms of sale. So I went to look up relevant law, and found the Revised Code of Washington on gift certificates. It doesn't say anything about transferability but it does say

(5)(a) "Gift certificate" means an instrument evidencing a promise by the seller or issuer of the record that consumer goods or services will be provided to the bearer of the record to the value or credit shown in the record and includes gift cards.

(1) Except as provided in RCW 19.240.030 through 19.240.070, it is unlawful for any person or entity to issue, or to enforce against a bearer, a gift certificate that contains:

(a) An expiration date;

where the exceptions appear to be only if it is given away for free, or is issued by a 'cultural organisation'.

What am I missing? Could I just tell merchants that their vouchers aren't allowed to expire and I should always be able to redeem it for the full promotion? And would that be a jerk move, or just standing up for my rights under the law?
posted by jacalata to Law & Government (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Generally, it means that the amount you actually paid for the groupon- say, 15 dollars- is still good. The promotional part- 35 dollars of food for 15 dollars- expires. The groupon basically becomes a gift certificate of the amount you paid for it. I don't know the specifics of washington law, though.
posted by rockindata at 1:50 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Groupon seems to get around this by having the (higher) promotional value expire, but the amount you pay for the certificate not having an expiration date. No idea if this actually works legally and I'm not aware of anyone litigating it (yet).
posted by Jahaza at 1:50 PM on March 30, 2012

Nobody has actually litigated yet against Groupon or any similar type site (they keep getting dismissed), to the best of my knowledge. There is some academic literature about this, if you're interested.
posted by calistasm at 2:35 PM on March 30, 2012

Interesting calistasm, according to your second link there seems to be a current case against them - Arliss v. Groupon - specifically about Washington state law, and a collection of other cases that are being heard together in California.

(Possibly worth noting that I know exactly how it is currently managed and have read the TOS of all relevant sites, I'm looking for more information than that.)
posted by jacalata at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2012

When my friend offered a similar deal, he was told by the vendor (not Groupon but starts with a G) that their deals couldn't legally expire. I'd try calling groupon.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:25 PM on March 30, 2012

I was told by someone who knows about such things but now can't recall specifics, but, it has something to do with "gift certificate" being defined as something worth the exact same dollar amount as paid for it (so, you pay $20 for a $20 gift certificate), whereas a Groupon isn't technically a gift certificate because it's worth "more" that what you pay (you pay $20 for a $30 credit).

That's why when it expires, it's still worth only what you actually paid for it, not what it was "promised" for.
posted by tristeza at 6:32 PM on March 30, 2012

(5)(a) "Gift certificate" means an instrument evidencing a promise by the seller or issuer of the record that consumer goods or services will be provided to the bearer of the record to the value or credit shown in the record and includes gift cards.

After trying to parse this awful sentence for a while, it looks like it says "a gift certificate is a piece of paper that promises to provide the holder of the gift certificate goods or services in the amount shown on the piece of paper."

So it then depends on what the Groupon certificate actually says on it. If it is a piece of paper that says "present this coupon for one $30 massage", then the expiration probably does run afoul of the law.

But if it says something more like "this is a credit for $15. for a limited time only, present this to receive a $30 massage for $15," then they are good with that law, as long as they honor the $15 credit.
posted by gjc at 7:09 AM on March 31, 2012

Today I received an email titled 'Notice of Class Action Settlement' directing me to, saying
If the settlement is approved, class members who complete and return a claim form may be eligible to receive a Settlement Voucher entitling them to redeem unused Groupon vouchers purchased between November 1, 2008 and December 1, 2011 for redemption in the United States that are past their stated expiration date. Settlement Vouchers may be redeemed at the location of the merchant identified on the voucher, for goods and/or services equal to the purchase price of the voucher.
So it looks like they are codifying the aspect that 'purchase price is always valid', so that people don't have to argue with the merchant (as I have in the past), and for now at least, the promotional value can expire.
posted by jacalata at 11:06 AM on May 23, 2012

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