By District Attorney | Summer Stephan
As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.
If you’re like the rest of us, you have a stash of gift cards with low balances on them from a few cents to a few dollars. Did you know that if the balance is under $10, it is redeemable for cash by law? That’s right, California Civil Code section 1749.5 subdivision (b)(2) is clear on this and it is something consumers and retailers alike should know.
A retailer’s failure to issue cash refunds on amounts under $10 could lead to a couple of scenarios:
Violation of the law.
Civil action resulting in penalties or fines.
Additional expenses of company training or legal costs.
Retailers should ensure that their staff — particularly cashiers — understand this law and are trained to engage the refund process. Already, a number of retailers inform consumers of their right to request cash for gift card balances under $10 by printing a reminder on the reverse of the gift card — a smart and consumer-friendly move. When approached for a refund, the retailer should cash out the gift certificate right at the cashier.
Consumers who have less than $10 on a gift card and want to redeem the balance for cash should:
Cite the law if met with resistance or with an employee who simply doesn’t know the law.
Ask for a manager if there is still a problem with obtaining a refund.
If the retailer still refuses to comply, report it to law enforcement.
My office has a consumer unit within the division that prosecutes economic crimes. This division handles a variety of wrongdoing, including computer intrusion, identity theft, investment scams, embezzlements, real estate matters, counterfeit goods, environmental crimes and it protects consumers and businesses through filing civil cases to prohibit unfair business practices within the marketplace.
People often think that the District Attorney only handles violent crime, but it’s important to know that we also protect the public from economic fraud and scams that can be harmful and painful for victims.
—District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 28 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.