ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — A lawsuit filed by NYS Attorney General Letitia James on behalf of consumers with Simply Certificates has resulted in a court-issued judgment and consent order. It requires the company (Red Storm LLC d/b/a Simply Certificates) to issue refunds, or exchanges, for certificates with illegal expiration dates.
The lawsuit alleged that Simply Certificates was selling dining and entertainment certificates that had a one-year expiration date. New York State Law requires gift certificates have, at least, a five-year expiration date.
Consumers were also charged re-issuance fees for expired gift cards — terms that were not disclosed to the consumer at the time of purchase.
NYS Supreme Court Justice Mark Montour signed the consent order that was issued in Erie County. Simply Certificates must also pay a $10,000 fine.
“At a time when so many are hurting financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, this will put money back in the pockets of New Yorkers,” said Attorney General James. “The greedy practices of Simply Certificates are simply unacceptable and illegal. Let this serve as a warning to any company that seeks to steal from New Yorkers: We will hold you accountable.”
WHO IS ENTITLED TO A REFUND OR EXCHANGE?
If you bought a Simply Certificates gift card/certificate between December 25, 2016 - August 4, 2020, and it expired earlier than legally permitted, you may request an exchange at any time. However, those seeking a refund must do so by December 31, 2020.
The refund or exchange is done via mail and is free of charge.
HOW DO YOU GET A REFUND OR EXCHANGE?
If you are eligible for a Simply Certificates refund or exchange, you will need to fill out a "Re-Issue / Refund Form " on the Simply Certificates website. You can access that form by clicking on this link.
You need to mail your certificate along with the signed form, using registered or certified USPS mail, to the following address:
Attn. Customer Service Department
PO BOX 1344
Kingston, PA 18704
According to the company's website, it will take 4-6 weeks for a refund or exchange.
IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER WHEN SEEKING YOUR REFUND OR EXCHANGE
Simply Certificates requires people who are seeking a refund to also include the original purchase receipt. Make sure you make copies for your own records!
The following are other requirements for a refund or exchange that are listed by Simply Certificates on its web page:
(a) certificates cannot be torn, opened, tampered with or voided, in any fashion. (b) expiration dates must be clearly visible, non-altered, from its original printing. (c) certificates have 'No cash value', as indicated on the front side of each certificate. (d)* certificates are valid for purchase only.
Any individual(s), residing in the State of New York, holding expired Simply Certificate(s) beginning with clearly marked dates of "Valid Thru 11/01/2017 through 11/01/2019, may be able to have them re-issued.
HISTORY OF COMPLAINTS
Melanie McGovern, Communications Director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY, tells 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that Simply Certificates had a number of unresolved complaints from customers upset with expiration dates.
"We sent all those complaints to the BBB in Pennsylvania that manages the file. The company has a "F" rating because it never responded to any of those complaints," said McGovern.
The BBB recommends researching any business that you plan to buy a gift card from - especially now as the pandemic has many businesses on the brink of closing, explained McGovern.
"I see this a lot, especially on social media. People complaining about companies or websites that don't work. I always tell them that you have to let us know. If you lose money, file a scam tracker report. Let us know what is going on. If we see a pattern of complaints, which is what we saw in this situation (Simply Certificates), law enforcement gets notified, they step in, and we work with them and give them all of our information," added McGovern.