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Unused Store Gift Cards Total Over $1 Million

Large retailer Bed Bath & Beyond (BBB) and one of its subsidiaries recently received some fantastic news from the State of New Jersey worth over $1 Million.  On September 21, 2017, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division reversed a decision of the New Jersey Treasury Department's Unclaimed Property Administration (UPA) denying their claim for refunds of the value of certain unclaimed merchandise return certificates.  The reversal means that BBB is entitled to a refund in the amount of $939,341.16 and that its subsidiary, BBB-VSI, to the $244,552.57 it erroneously remitted to the UPA.

BB&B is a large, nationwide retailer of domestic merchandise and home furnishings. BBB-VSI is a wholly owned subsidiary of BB&B. For customers who return merchandise to BB&B without a receipt, BB&B issues a certificate, which is redeemable at BB&B or an affiliated store for other merchandise or services, but not for cash except as may be required by state consumer protection laws. Issued certificates include a bar code referencing data stored on BB&B's network and system database. Customers who have receipts are able to obtain a refund in cash. At issue in the cases were the certificates issued for returns made without a receipt.  Some customers in New Jersey never redeemed their certificates, leading to the refund claims.

Under New Jersey's Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (UUPA), N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 46:30B-1 to 46:30B-109, the State takes custody of the property and has full use of it until the rightful owner comes forward to claim it. A person who claims an interest in the funds may file a claim. The Appellate Division held that the unclaimed merchandise return certificates issued were not “property” under the UUPA but rather “stored value cards” under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 46:30B-6(t) since the certificates, like gift certificates, were only redeemable for merchandise or services, not money.

Under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 46:30B-42.1(a) of the UUPA, a stored value card is presumed to be abandoned after five years of inactivity. Thus, the retailers’ refund claims resulted from unused certificates issued between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 from BB&B and the certificates reported as credit memoranda by BBB-VSI in November 2014. 

Under the UUPA, not only does BB&B and BBB-VSI get their claimed refunds, but they also get interest on the unrefunded amounts.

Lexis subscribers can access the opinion at: BBB Value Servs. v. Treasurer, State of N.J., 2017 N.J. Super. LEXIS 136 (App. Div. 2017)

Lexis Advanced subscribers can access the opinion at: BBB Value Servs. v. Treasurer, State of N.J., 2017 N.J. Super. LEXIS 136

Author:  Gabriela N. Nolen, Lexis-Nexis Case Law Editor


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