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Abercrombie Shoppers Certify Gift Card Dispute

CHICAGO (CN) - A federal judge certified a nationwide class action that claims Abercrombie & Fitch stopped honoring promotional gift cards that were never supposed to expire.

Abercrombie ran a promotion in December 2009 offering a $25 gift card to customers who bought at least $100 worth of merchandise in a single transaction. The gift cards stated: "This gift card is redeemable at all Abercrombie & Fitch locations. ... No expiration date."

Dorothy Stojka received three promotional gift cards worth a total of $75 and gave them to Tiffany Boundas, who attempted to redeem them in April 2010 at Abercrombie store in Oak Brook, Ill.

But the store demurred, explaining that Abercrombie had voided the cards on Jan. 30, 2010. According to Abercrombie, each card was enclosed in a sleeve that said, "$25 gift card expires 1/30/10."

Stojka and Boundas filed a class action against Abercrombie in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that it committed breach of contract when it voided the gift cards.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman certified the class last week and appointed Boundas as the class representative.

"I contracts were formed, they were identical, with the only open question being whether the cards expired on January 30, 2010, in which case Abercrombie did not breach, or never expired, in which case it did," Feinerman said.

"Abercrombie's reference to individuals who 'knew the Promotion Cards expired on January 30' does not advance its cause," he added. "Because the question whether the cards expired has yet to be decided, no cardholder could know that the cards expired in January 2010. The category of individuals Abercrombie means to describe are those who believed the cards expired on January 30, 2010. Even if that category includes more than a handful of persons-and there is no evidence of record that anybody held that belief-their inclusion in the class does not pose an individual issue, let alone one that predominates over the common issues."

Feinerman also said Abercrombie exaggerated the difficulty of ascertaining who actually received the promotional gift cards. Although class members' actual identities are not presently known, "it is enough that the class be ascertainable." (emphasis in original)

"The class in this case consists primarily of individuals holding an Abercrombie promotional gift card whose value was voided on or around January 30, 2010," Feinerman said. "That criterion is as objective as they come. The class also includes individuals who threw away their cards because they were told that the balances had been voided. That criterion is not as objective as actually holding a physical card, but anybody claiming class membership on that basis will be required to submit an appropriate affidavit."

Abercrombie could also give notice at its 300 nationwide locations or on its website, the decision states.

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