* Retailer voided gift cards carrying "no expiration date"
* Nearly 200,000 cards issued in 2009 holiday promotion
By Jonathan Stempel
March 7 Abercrombie & Fitch Co was ordered on Wednesday to face a class-action lawsuit by unhappy shoppers who claimed the clothing retailer voided holiday gift cards that said they had "no expiration date."
The decision by U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman in Chicago came even as federal courts grow less willing to certify classes of plaintiffs, following last June's U.S. Supreme Court decertification of a large group of Wal-Mart Stores Inc employees in a gender bias case.
Abercrombie, which caters mainly to teens and young adults, had in a December 2009 promotion issued nearly 200,000 gift cards valued at $25 each to shoppers who spent at least $100 on a single purchase.
According to court papers, Abercrombie voided the cards around Jan. 30, 2010, explaining that the cards were enclosed in sleeves containing that expiration date.
In court papers, the New Albany, Ohio-based company insisted that the cardholders be forced to sue separately -- which often raises legal costs and results in lower recoveries -- because they were too different from one another to sue as a group.
It said some people got their cards in stores and others online, and some with the sleeve and others without. Abercrombie also said it would be impossible to find some plaintiffs.
But Feinerman said it was fair to certify a class of plaintiffs who still hold the cards, and plaintiffs who threw out their cards after being told they had expired or were void.
"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. That criterion is as objective as they come," Feinerman wrote.
Anyone claiming to have thrown out a card could submit an "appropriate affidavit" to that effect, he added.
According to the complaint, lead plaintiff Tiffany Boundas, a resident of Willowbrook, Illinois, tried in April 2010 to redeem $75 of cards that she got from a friend at an Abercrombie store in nearby Oak Brook, but the store refused to accept them.
James Shedden, a lawyer for Boundas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Abercrombie did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The case is Boundas et al v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 10-04866.