Expiry dates on cash gift certificates will soon be a thing of the past in Ontario after the government announced a plan to ban time limits on the cards.

"Cash equivalent gift cards sold on or after Oct. 1, 2007 will never expire," Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips said on Tuesday.

"Bringing this law in is about fairness to the consumer."

Ontario is the first province to announce regulations for gift cards, which are becoming more popular every year.

More than 80 per cent of large retailers offered the certificates in exchange for cash in 2005, up 50 per cent from 2003, according to Statistics Canada.

An estimated 55 per cent of Canadian adults gave or received a gift card in 2005, but many were only valid for the next year.

"People who receive gift cards shouldn't have to rush into a purchase just so they can get full value from their card," Eleanor Friedland, vice-president of the Consumers Council of Canada, said in a press release.

"By eliminating expiry dates on these types of gift cards, consumers can have peace of mind by knowing cash-equivalent gift cards will retain their value for life," Phillips added.

The new rules will also require retailers to clearly display any terms and conditions on the gift card and restrict fees.