The law will also ban the practice of airlines cancelling gift vouchers where the name differs from that on a passport.
Business minister Heather Humphreys said: “I am very pleased to be able to bring the five-year expiry date, and a number of other important protections for consumers, into effect from Monday.
“I am particularly pleased to do so at the start of the Christmas period, when many of us will buy or receive gift vouchers.
“Consumers should not find themselves unable to use gift vouchers given to them by family members or friends because of unreasonably short expiry periods imposed by gift-voucher issuers.”
Up until now, many gift vouchers have had expiry periods of just one or two years and, in some cases, as little as six months.
The bill also bans a number of unfair terms in gift-voucher contracts, which were brought to the minister’s attention during public consultations.
It outlaws any contract term that requires the full value of a voucher to be spent in one transaction.
Where a gift voucher cannot be used more than once, and the consumer does not redeem the full amount of the voucher in an initial purchase, the business will now be required to reimburse any remaining balance of more than one euro by way of cash, electronic transfer, or another voucher.
Certain airlines cancelled gift vouchers where the name on the voucher was not identical to the person’s name on their passport. Some airlines also charged recipients to change the name on the voucher. The minister has now banned this practice.
“Short expiry periods are not the only way in which consumers have been treated unfairly by certain gift-voucher providers,” she said.
Prevented from getting change
“Some businesses have required consumers to spend a voucher in full in a single transaction. This meant that if you had a restaurant voucher for €100, and your meal came to €80, you were prevented from getting change, or a voucher with the balance of €20.
“Others have prevented consumers from using more than one gift voucher in a transaction. So, for example, if a person wanted to use two €50 vouchers together to buy a product for €100, they were prevented from doing so."
Businesses can no longer make unfair gains at the expense of Irish consumers, the minister said, pointing out that, every year, consumers in Ireland lose millions in unredeemed or expired vouchers.