Monday, January 04, 2010
The federal government, in its management of our Capital District, has sued AT&T for the "unused minutes" embedded in sold but not fully exhausted prepaid cell phone cards. The theory is that these are "unclaimed property" under District of Columbia law, and therefore should escheat to the benefit of the district government. Since it is impossible to distinguish the unused portion of gift cards (unless there is some specific exception under district law) -- see iTunes, Amazon, and so forth -- one can only assume that the cell phone case is designed to set up retailers to cough up the money attributable to unused gift cards.
If I were a major national retailer, I would immediately stop the sale of gift certificates and gift cards in the District of Columbia, and I would offer to pick up some of AT&T's legal fees just so it does not settle in some way that screws up the defense of the inevitable gift card case.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
AT&T should simply send the D.C. government a few truck loads of calling cards, each with a few minutes on them.
If they want the minutes, give them the minutes...with exactly the same per card granularity they were left over at.
Don't even have to go that far, just credit the District with the minutes as non-transferable, valid only with calls originating in, and calling to the continental United States excluding the District of Colombia.
As you probably know, this has been a high priority item for a lot of states - it isn't just gift cards, but any "unclaimed property" that must be turned over to the states, who hold it for the benefit of the true owner. The states pay it over to them (if and when) they appear and make a claim for it. In the mean time the state lives on the float. It is _not_ for the benefit of the state, they just hold it (out of trust, IMHO)
If your employer is incorporated in Delaware, beware that they are very aggressively claiming this stuff too, regardless of the situs of your corporate headquarters.
Gift Cards and certificates do actually have their own independent rules that vary state to state. Yes-- when you forget to use that gift card or a few dollars on it..over a period of 3-5years the state can claim that as well. Elish Meyers