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Georgia Supreme Court now in gift card debate.

The controversy surrounding gift cards is continuing in Georgia. This week the Supreme Court is hearing both sides of this issue.

The debate began years ago as an argument over the legality of expiration dates and non-usage fees. It has since evolved into a battle over whether a gift card recipient can sue the issuing company for the card’s value.

The Georgia Court of Appeals said no last month which was a reversal of a trial court’s decision. The Appeals Court threw out the lawsuit that accused mall operator Simon Property Group of illegally deducting value from its gift cards and keeping the remaining balances when customers didn’t use them before a deadline.

Simon’s attorneys disagree and say the plaintiffs are basing their case on Georgia’s unclaimed property statute, which doesn’t apply in this case since Simon issues its cards with Visa. Visa issued cards would be governed by federal law.

If the unclaimed property law did apply, it only allows someone to file suit to reclaim the property’s value five years after the property has been turned over to the state. In the case of the gift cards in question, five years have not lapsed since they expired.

The plaintiffs are hoping the state Supreme Court will see things differently. In this case the plaintiffs have argued that it was illegal for Simon to deduct fees from unused gift cards and to eventually shut off the cards.

Another issue that is sure to be brought into this is the law passed last year by Georgia General Assembly requiring card issuers to print on cards all fees and expiration dates. This could effectively reinforce the legality of such fees and expirations. This law took effect in October.

Since the increase of gift card usage, consumers throughout the United States have been appealing to different groups and governments for their rights. Cards issued in Connecticut have no expiration dates or non-usage fees and California has no expiration dates and assesses a $1-a-month fee if a card has a balance of $5 or less, or hasn’t been used in 24 months.

When Simon issues gift cards it does inform customers there is an “administrative fee” of $2.50 every month after the first year and that expiration will occur after 20 months. For gift cards purchased on or before Aug. 31, 2005, the monthly fees come sooner – seven months after issuance.

Some states have included unused gift cards as unclaimed property. You can click onto www.CashUnclaimed.com to find out if there is unclaimed money waiting for you. This site includes all state and federal databases. Currently nine out of ten Americans are owed money. You could be the next one to claim lost money.

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