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Mar 23, 2010 10:24 AM by Associated Press

Fed cracks down on gift card abuses

The Federal Reserve has issued new rules to protect Americans from getting stung by unexpected fees or restrictions on gift cards.

Under the new rules, consumers must have at least five years to use the gift cards before they expire. The Fed also says service or inactivity fees can be imposed only under certain conditions.

Such fees can 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 rules take effect Aug. 22. Congress ordered the Fed to issue the new provisions under a law enacted last year.

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