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VOUCHERS: TIPS & LEGAL ASPECTS
A trip to the city with your best friend, a romantic weekend for two, or a Munich hotel voucher from a loved one. If you have received a voucher – no matter what type - or wish to give one as a gift, we have compiled all the interesting tips and aspects you need to know about.
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GENERAL FACTS ABOUT VOUCHERS
Note the dates of issue and expiry of hotel vouchers
Note the date of issue of the hotel voucher and whether it has additional information printed on it, e.g. “valid for 12 months from the date of issue”. But do not wait too long to redeem your hotel voucher. Hoteliers frequently change their offers and room prices, or even become insolvent. By redeeming your hotel voucher early, you can avoid many disappointments and disputes.
If you have discovered to your dismay that your hotel voucher has expired before you could redeem it, then contact the hotel. Many hoteliers are obliging and will try to meet you halfway. Find out what else you can do under “Legal aspects”. So don’t wait too long before you redeem your hotel voucher. Hoteliers frequently change their offers and room prices, or even become insolvent. By redeeming your hotel voucher early, you can avoid many disappointments and disputes.
Prompt contact with the hotel, retailer or service provider
The following applies to all kinds of vouchers: With vouchers that are exchanged for services or that are time-sensitive, contact the shop or company with whom you wish to redeem the voucher as soon as possible. It’s not always easy to find the date that best suits you.
Extend validity period
If you are unable to redeem your hotel voucher before it expires, e.g. due to lack of time, contact the hotel immediately and ask to have its validity period extended. However, in such a case, you are reliant on the hotel’s goodwill; you have no legal right to have the validity period extended.
How long is a voucher valid?
Generally, vouchers are legally valid for a period of three years. In technical terms, the regular statutory limitation period is three years, as set out in § 195 BGB. The validity period begins at the end of the year in which the voucher was issued. So if, during your spring clean, you should find an undated voucher from 2010 that was, e.g., issued on 03.12.2010, then its statutory limitation period begins on 31.12.2010 and ends on 31.12.2013. You would then have the whole year to redeem it.
Generally, a voucher – whether a hotel voucher or a wellness voucher – must be valid for at least 1 year. This was decided by the Higher Regional Court Munich (file no. 29 U 3193/07) in association with Amazon gift vouchers with a one-year validity period. If no shorter validity period is noted on the voucher, then it is valid for the three years required by law. But beware: This only applies to cash vouchers (e.g. book token for 50 euros); if the voucher is for a specific event, e.g. a football game or opera production, its value lapses if it has not been redeemed in time.
Limited validity periods for vouchers in general: Are they legal?
Basically, it is legal to limit the validity period of vouchers to under 3 years, e.g., through specific agreements or special terms and conditions. Please pay attention to the small print. However, the validity period must be noted on the voucher, e.g., as “to be redeemed by…” or “valid for 24 months from date of issue”. If no date is noted, it is generally an unrestricted voucher which is valid for the statutory period of three years.
One frequently asked question is whether a voucher must be redeemed in one visit or purchase. If, for example, you have been given a hotel voucher for a 4-Star hotel, it should not be a problem to redeem it in stages, so long as the service provided is divisible. In theory therefore, you can use your hotel voucher for a trip to the city in spring and a romantic weekend for two in autumn. However, the hotel is not obliged to split the gift voucher, or to pay out the remainder.
Is there a right of return for hotel vouchers?
Essentially, there is no right of return for hotel vouchers within their validity period. Some hoteliers however will refund the value of the hotel voucher as a gesture of goodwill, or the customer may, e.g., redeem the voucher in the hotel restaurant, rather than use it to pay for a room.
It is however more problematic when the company or hotel that the voucher was issued for becomes insolvent. The risk that a company or hotel becomes insolvent can unfortunately never be ruled out, and in such a case the voucher holder is unfortunate. You may have better luck if a legal successor assumes the management of the company or hotel and honours the voucher.
The value of the voucher is no longer adequate because the cost of the service provided has increased. What can be done?
As an example: you received a hotel voucher last year (value: 80,00 euros), but the price of a room has now increased from the original 80,00 euros to 85,00 euros. Do you have to pay the difference? Unfortunately, in this case you must. However, with a little luck the hotel will accept the hotel voucher at the old price as a gesture of goodwill.
The voucher’s validity period has expired. Is the hotel voucher now worthless?
Basically, a retailer or service provider is not obliged to exchange a voucher (e.g. a voucher for a hotel in Munich) for goods or services when its validity period has expired. But according to the consumer advice centre, in certain cases you can claim back part of the value. Let’s assume that, for your birthday, you were given a hotel voucher for Munich to the value of euros 180,00, which was issued on 13 January 2012 and is valid for one year. A year later, you have still been unable to redeem the voucher for the hotel in Munich. What can you do? First, ask at the hotel if you can still redeem the voucher. If the answer is no, according to § 812 BGB you may ask for a refund because you have received the voucher as a gift; after all, the hotel has already received the money from the giver of the gift and it would be unlawful to keep the sum of money without providing a return service. However, the hotel that issued the voucher is not obliged to refund the entire sum, but may deduct the lost profit from the value of the voucher.
Can I ask for the value of the voucher to be paid out in cash? Or can a hotel voucher be exchanged for cash?
If you have been given a hotel voucher for a Day Spa that you do not wish to redeem because you would rather have the cash value of the voucher: Try to sell your hotel voucher to one of your friends or on the Internet. If need be, you can always regift the hotel voucher. As a rule, the hotel voucher remains valid even if it was originally issued in another name (exceptions may occur in the case of individually customised vouchers or certain rules in the Terms and Conditions).
The company is insolvent. Is the voucher now worthless?
The risk that a company of hotel becomes insolvent can unfortunately never be ruled out, and in such a case the voucher holder is unfortunate. You may have better luck if a legal successor assumes the management of the company or hotel and honours the voucher.
Depending on the Terms and Conditions of the company issuing the voucher, deviations from the legal basis may arise in certain cases. When in doubt, you should always get expert advice. Particularly in cases dealing with the validity of vouchers, courts frequently decide differently from case to case.
WHEN GIVING A HOTEL VOUCHER AS A GIFT, PLEASE NOTE
What kind of voucher would you like to give?
You can gift vouchers that are linked with a specific service, e.g. “Spring Wellness Week 2013”, with defined room categories and wellness treatments, or a cash-value voucher, e.g. a hotel voucher from a hotel in Munich. With a hotel voucher in the form of a cash-value voucher, the holder has more flexibility when redeeming it, although in such a case the sum is often set out on the hotel voucher.
Allow for a period of notice
Be aware that a period of notice is needed in order to issue a hotel voucher. You must first contact the hotel (by email, phone or in person), decide on the value of the voucher or study and choose from the available offers. It may then take a few days to clear payment of the hotel voucher, depending on the method of payment (e.g. bank transfer, credit card, PayPal, cash payment, etc.). Finally, the hotel will send the hotel voucher to you, to arrive by post or email a few days later. Ideally, you should therefore allow for a processing period of 10-14 working days (note weekends and public holidays).
How to gift-wrap a hotel voucher
A hotel voucher usually comes in an envelope. While an attractive envelope makes a fine package, it is sometimes nice to give your gift a personal touch. To this end, you can decorate the envelope by hand or choose a complementary gift, e.g. a bouquet or a fine wine, a hamper, or a speciality or homemade cake. You can give your hotel voucher a very personal touch, entirely in keeping with your taste, mood and budget.
We also offer hotel vouchers
Gift a hotel voucher for our fine 4-Star Hotel Cristal in the Bavarian metropolis of Munich
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