Mall to Give You Back Your Cash

Crystal Mall will reimburse customers for gift card penally fees

If you had Crystal Mall gift cards from August 2003 through January 2005 and did not use them right away, the mall owners might owe you money.

The owners of the Crystal Mall in Waterford will pay $308,736 to settle allegations that they violated the state ban on gift card inactivity fees, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Monday.

Most of the money will go toward refunds for thousands of consumers.

The settlement includes $258,736 in refunds to consumers subjected to inactivity fees on Simon gift cards from Aug. 16, 2003 to Jan. 31, 2005. The remaining $50,000 reimburses the state for investigative and litigation costs and will go into the General Fund.

Blumenthal reached the agreement with Simon Property Group, LCC and SPGGC, LLC on behalf of Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr. and state Treasurer Denise L. Nappier.

The agreement settles a lawsuit that Blumenthal filed against Simon in 2004 on behalf of DCP and the treasurer.

 “While this restitution is welcome and significant -- almost $260,000 back to consumers whose cards improperly lost value because of dormancy fees -- it also shows how sadly and starkly deficient the law is. At the time, Simon brazenly devalued gift cards by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, the company’s actions would be beyond the state law enforcement because it has shifted to cards issued through a national bank, deemed subject only to federal law,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said he wants state legislation that requires retailers who use national banks to circumvent state consumer protection laws to post prominent warnings that their gift cards are subject to inactivity fees and expiration dates.

“Simon customers effectively paid money for nothing, putting pure unearned profit into Simon’s pocket. Gift cards are supposed to be cash on call, and consumers should get every penny,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal estimated that thousands of consumers are eligible for refunds ranging from $2.50 to about $50. The total restitution is the amount that Simon collected in dormancy fees from Connecticut consumers during the time period covered by the agreement. Simon charged consumers a $2.50 per month “administrative” fee on cards not fully redeemed after six months.

The agreement requires Simon to post signs at Crystal Mall informing consumers subjected to inactivity fees on their gift cards between Aug. 13, 2003 and Jan. 31, 2005 that they are eligible to apply for restitution. The notices must stay up until Feb. 2.

Are You Owed a Refund?

Consumers can call Blumenthal’s office at (860) 808-5420 to obtain claim forms.
Consumers must submit claims by April 3 and will receive 100 percent refunds of the fees charged them.

Any undistributed funds will go into the state’s General Fund.

The Issue

Simon is issuing gift cards through two national banks, MetaBank and U.S. Bank, to circumvent Connecticut’s ban on dormancy fees, Blumenthal said. Because they are national banks, their cards are governed by federal law, which allows dormancy fees. Simon is charging $2.50 a month on cards 13 months and older.

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment at Simon Property Group's headquarters on Monday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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