Consumer NZ cautious on Hampsta's Dick Smith voucher offer
A consumer watchdog is sceptical about an offer allowing Dick Smith customers to exchange their gift vouchers for a discounted membership fee to a Christmas savings scheme.
Hampsta is a membership-based savings scheme that allows customers to put away money on their Hampsta account to spend at participating retailers from December 1 to January 10.
After Dick Smith was placed into receivership and its receivers announced it would not honour gift cards, Hampsta started a promotion offering a "unique opportunity to get some value from your now worthless Dick Smith Gift Card (sic)".
In exchange for the card, the company offered a $40 discount on the joining and annual membership fees, which it claimed were normally $59.
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But Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin was dubious about the offer and said Consumer NZ had asked Hampsta about its fees for a 2014 article on Christmas savings schemes.
"They told us the joining fee was paid by their partner retailers, not the customer," she said.
"They're basically offering nothing."
Chetwin said Hampsta's terms and conditions only specified a $39 maintenance and $40 cancellation fee and the only place people can find the joining fee information was in the company's frequently asked questions section.
This information should be in their terms and conditions, Chetwin said.
"People should be wary of jumping from the frying pan to the fire."
Chetwin said there was no harm in Dick Smith customers hanging onto their gift cards for now.
The only exchange offers customers should trust are ones like in Australia, where Coles supermarket has offered customers an exchange for gift cards bought at Coles stores.
"If a company in New Zealand that was selling gift cards said they would honour them, you are getting value," Chetwin said.
Hampsta has been approached for comment.
Duncan Cotterill commercial partner Richard Smith said on the face of it, anyone who took up Hampsta's offer would be walking away from any rights they may have had with their Dick Smith voucher.
He said it would be wise for people to read Hampsta's terms and conditions first and understand how they can use their money, whether they were allowed to withdraw their money and all the fees and charges attached to the products.
In the wake of Dick Smith's collapse South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has called for legislative changes across the Tasman so that customers with gift cards and who have paid deposits are not left in the lurch.
He has proposed three ways. Firstly, there should be an obligation on external administrators to honour gift cards by way of greater priority as creditors.
And thirdly, directors of companies that collapse should be personally liable for the value of gift cards or deposits, including lay-by.