There are a few things which still puzzle me when it comes to gift cards. One of them is when companies state a gift card is "non-transferable" in the terms and conditions.
It's confusing because we all know that most people buy gift cards to give to another person. In other words: the very concept of a gift card is to transfer (or give) it to another person. By placing non-transferable in the terms, the issuer is essential forcing a consumer to break the terms when using the product as intended.
Sometimes, companies state a gift card is "non-transferable for money or barter" or something along those lines. At least this wording permits a gift cardholder to give away a gift card to another person; however, it still aims to prevent the gift cardholder from selling or trading their property.
My understanding is such clauses are included to protect the merchant from fraudulent activity. I've spoken with several gift card issuers in the past. Those who are not fans of the secondary market where you can buy discounted gift cards tend to believe the secondary market is a liquidating ground for gift cards obtained fraudulently.
For example, imagine a thief steals merchandise and then returns it to the store. It's possible the store may have a generous return policy which allows for returns without a receipt. However, instead of giving them cash, they will give the customer store credit in the form of a gift card. This helps curtail some of the fraudulent activity and lowers the incentive of thieves to keep stealing from the same store. However, if the thief can go to the secondary market to sell the gift card for cash, it makes the gift card nearly as good as a cash refund.
Obviously, I'm not a fan of anyone abusing the secondary market. In fact, I understand these merchant's perspective. I also believe a secondary market managed by companies with solid track records is a good things for consumers. Either way, a person should be able to do what they want with the gift card. There are thousands of discount gift cards available for purchase and I'm willing to bet the vast majority were legitimately obtained by the people who sell them for cash. If a consumer has no use for a gift card, they should be able to give it to another person, trade it or even sell it to a company who facilitates the buying and selling of discount gift cards.
The fact is, it's going to be difficult to enforce a non-transferable clause. As I mentioned before: the gift card issuer is unlikely to know who the gift cardholder is at any point in time. Not knowing who owns the gift card, makes it nearly impossible to determine if a gift card was transferred in violation the terms and conditions.
If a gift card is obtained fraudulently, the merchant should have every right to protect themselves and cancel the card. However, the rest of us should not suffer as a result of a few bad apples.