OLYMPIA — It’s common for people to give friends and family gift cards, especially during the holidays. But what happens if you lose a card, or don’t spend all of it?

“Consumers are losing millions of dollars due to unused gift cards, resulting in unfair corporate profit, and that’s simply unacceptable,” Sen. Trudeau stated. “This legislation ensures that large corporations comport with processes, similar to those around the country, that meet consumer expectations of how they can access their own hard-earned money.”

Part of the problem comes from a legal loophole dating back to 2004. While gift cards don’t expire in Washington state, if a person doesn’t use a gift card or funds on a mobile app from a Washington-based retailer after three years, those funds go directly to the retailer as profit.

“It’s gift-giving season, and many of us provide gift cards to our loved ones,” Rep. Alvarado said. “While gift cards and mobile apps have grown into a billion-dollar industry, our state laws haven’t grown and changed to help consumers. These are common-sense protections for people and accountability for corporations.”

Legislation will be introduced in the Senate and House to close the loophole, sending the funds to unclaimed property at the state Department of Revenue, where people could find their missing funds.

The bills will also enhance other consumer protections around gift cards, including:

  • Allowing consumers to cash out small amounts on gift cards or mobile apps.
  • Notifying customers of unspent funds.
  • Letting consumers reload gift cards and mobile apps at amounts they desire instead of high minimums.

Small businesses with annual revenue under $25 million would be exempt from the reforms.

Trudeau and Alvarado held a press conference about this issue on Monday, Dec. 4. They said legislation should be finalized and introduced in both chambers before the session starts in January.