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Nov 16, 2009 1:32 PM by Associated Press

Fed wants to crack down on gift card abuses

The Federal Reserve is proposing new rules to protect consumers from unexpected costs or restrictions on gift cards. The changes would give consumers at least five years to use gift cards before they expire.

Also, service or inactivity fees would be permitted only under certain conditions. Fees could be charged if the consumer hasn't used the card for at least a year, if the consumer is given clear disclosures about them and no more than one fee is charged a month.

The new provisions are slated to take effect on Aug. 22.

The public, industry groups and other interested parties can comment on the proposal, which could be revised before a final rule is adopted.

The Fed was directed to take the action under a law Congress passed in May.

The Fed says more than 95 percent of Americans have received or purchased gift cards.

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