Online couponer Groupon has changed the consumer disclosure information on discount vouchers sold nationwide and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen says his state deserves a lot of the credit.
Jepsen says he was the first attorney general to raise the issue of coupon expiration with Groupon. Since then, it has been the subject of private litigation across the country, including a class action lawsuit that the company is currently seeking court approval to settle. Connecticut is not a party in that lawsuit.
Could be, but none of this has made much of a dent in consumers' feelings about Groupon, at least according to a ConsumerAffairs sentiment analysis of about 2 million comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media over the last year.
Groupon "very cooperative"
"Groupon has been very cooperative and responsive to the issues that we raised," Jepsen said. "As a result, American consumers will benefit from a clearer explanation of what they are getting for their money."
Last July Jepsen wrote to Groupon trying to determine whether the company's vouchers violated a Connecticut law prohibiting the sale of gift cards and certificates subject to an expiration date. At the time, Jepsen said he hadn't reached any conclusions.
Jepsen said Groupon denied that its vouchers violated Connecticut's gift card law and no court has yet addressed the issue. Nonetheless, the company decided to make a clarification.
New vouchers rolled out this month
Groupon introduced the revised vouchers throughout the country earlier this month. A statement advises purchasers that the sales value -- the amount they paid for vouchers -- may be used with the designated merchant at any time without expiration, even after the Groupon promotional value -- the bargain offered by the voucher -- expires.
For example, a consumer may pay $20 for a Groupon voucher entitling them to $40 worth of goods and services if purchased by a certain date. If the voucher has not been used by that date, the $40 promotional offer expires, but the purchasers may still redeem the voucher for $20 in goods or services from the issuing merchant.
The same terms apply to vouchers sold before the language was revised. Consumers who experience difficulty in trying to redeem the purchase value from old vouchers should contact Groupon customer support at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (877) 788-7858.
"Reasonable minds may differ about whether Connecticut's gift card law was intended to apply to these kinds of vouchers," Jepsen said. "But regardless of any legal uncertainty, consumers are entitled to a clear explanation of what they are getting when they purchase a Groupon voucher."
Jepsen said the new Groupon voucher format does a far better job of providing essential consumer information than the previous format.