WASHINGTON (8/4/10)--Congress last week extended until Jan. 31, 2011, the effective date of pending gift-card requirements--allowing businesses to sell their existing stock of gift cards and gift certificates produced before April 1. However, according to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) staff, the portions of the new gift-card rules that address notices, fees and expiration dates will still come into effect on the original effective date of Aug. 22. During the transition period, gift-card issuers may notify consumers of their rights through signage, customer service numbers, websites, and general advertising, CUNA staff added. The final rules, which were implemented under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), specifically restrict the fees and expiration dates that may apply to gift cards, and require that gift-card terms and conditions be clearly stated. The gift-card rules also prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless the consumer has not used the certificate or card for at least one year, the card issuer charges no more than one service fee per month, and the consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees. An expiration date for funds underlying gift cards must be at least five years after the date the card was issued, or five years after the last date the card was reloaded. The rules cover network-branded gift cards, which are redeemable at any merchant that accepts the card brand, as well as retail gift cards that can be used to buy goods or services at a single merchant or affiliated group of merchants.