What do you have to consider with coupons?

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As an entrepreneur, what do you have to consider when exhibiting? How long are they valid and do you have to take coupons back?

What is a coupon?

There is no legal definition for coupons. A coupon regularly gives the customer the right to choose a product or service from the exhibitor that corresponds to the value specified in the coupon.

The trade often uses the terms ” gift coupon” and ” exchange coupon”.

  • With the gift coupon, the customer pays the dealer a certain amount and receives a certificate in return. This usually contains the amount of the credit and often the name of the person entitled. From a legal point of view, the indication of the name has no binding effect, since it is usually a so-called “small bearer paper”, the redemption of which does not depend on the bearer of the name.
  • The customer in retail often receives an exchange coupon for taking back non-defective goods. The retailer is not obliged to exchange goods that are free of defects; this is only done on the basis of goodwill or a corresponding contractual agreement, for example in general terms and conditions. The customer then receives either cash or an exchange coupon from the retailer – depending on their conditions. If the retailer has issued the customer a coupon, he is obliged to redeem the coupon for the customer, as with the gift coupon.

How do you best issue a coupon?

  • It must be drawn up in writing.
  • The coupon must contain the amount.
  • The issuer of the coupon should be clearly visible. However, a signature is not necessary.
  • The coupon should contain a clearly legible date of issue. This is important for the periods until which the coupon is valid.

How long do you have to redeem a coupon and can it be limited in time?

An unlimited coupon can be redeemed for three years. The general limitation period applies here. This period begins at the end of the year in which the coupon was issued. In order to avoid later disputes, it makes sense to provide the coupon with an issue date.

Can a coupon be limited in time?

Under certain circumstances, the dealer can also time-limit a coupon. The requirements that must be observed in the case of a time limit depend on whether it is an individual agreement or a pre-formulated clause of the dealer (general terms and conditions).

Individual agreements between the dealer and the person entitled to the coupon are basically possible as long as they are not immoral. If a time limit is immoral, it will be declared null and void by the legislature and therefore irrelevant.

  • When a time limit is immoral cannot be assessed across the board, but depends on the type of service to be provided and the customs of the respective industry. In any case, however, immorality can be assumed if the holder of the coupon is not given the opportunity to request the service from the dealer within the specified time.

However, the individual agreement is the exception in business life. As a rule, the retailer uses pre-formulated time-limit clauses on the coupon, which are always the same wording printed on a coupon on a form or stamp. With these pre-formulated time limits, the legislature places higher demands on their effectiveness. The limit here is no longer the immorality, but rather the inappropriateness of the clause.

According to the requirements of the legislature, a clause is always inappropriate if it unreasonably disadvantages the customer, contrary to the requirements of good faith. When is this the case?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a legally secure, general statement about the permissible duration of a time limit. So far, only individual cases have been decided by case law. However, a relatively strict case law is emerging:

  • In a judgment, a 10-month redemption period for a gift coupon in the electronics trade was classified as too short.
  • In another judgment, it was also considered ineffective if a gift coupon expired one year after it was issued.

Tip: The easiest way is to use the statutory limitation period. Then a coupon can be redeemed for three years. Please note that the period only begins at the end of the year in which the coupon was issued.

Does a coupon have to be paid out to the customer?

  • If the customer does not like the merchant’s range of goods, he still has no claim to payment of the money, since the customer should not receive the money but the goods in the case of a gift coupon. However, the merchant can opt for a cash payment as a goodwill gesture. (However, this does not apply to a complaint about a defect!)
  • The customer, on the other hand, is entitled to the payment of the money if the coupon was issued for a specific service which the retailer can no longer provide. For example, if the coupon was issued to purchase a certain branded product that is no longer available on the market, the customer can request that the amount of money be paid out.

Are coupons transferable?

Name information on coupons is only of a declaratory nature, because the retailer generally does not care who redeems the coupon. According to case law, the name only serves the purpose of documenting the personal relationship between the giver and the recipient. coupons can therefore be given away, resold, etc. at will, whereby the issuer of the coupon is obliged to provide the services documented in the coupon to the third party.

An exception can be made if some coupon providers like Helen Ficalora coupons that the documented service is only to be provided to a specific person. This can arise either from the circumstances (e.g. coupon to host a certain holiday, health requirements for a climbing tour) or from a contractual agreement.

Can coupons only partially be redeemed?

It is not uncommon for customers to use the coupon for goods or services that do not include the full value of the coupon. Such partial redemptions are neither regulated by law nor clarified by a court. However, it can be assumed that the customer is fundamentally entitled to have the coupon in denominations. Most retailers note the remaining amount on the coupon.

On the other hand, the customer is not entitled to the payment of the remaining coupon amount. In practice, however, exhibitors pay out the remaining amount as a gesture of goodwill if the value of the goods purchased is more than half of the coupon amount.

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