Would-be shoppers lost millions in vouchers that expired during lockdown while non-essential shops were closed, Which? research reveals.
They have their fans, but some say vouchers make thoughtless and impersonal gifts. This year, for many, they ended up being worthless too.
Some 25% of UK adults had a shopping voucher that expired under lockdown, according to a new Which? survey.
While 49% received an automatic extension, 15% had to ask before theirs was extended.
Of those that had vouchers, 36% said theirs wasn’t extended, meaning they completely lost the value of their vouchers.
Estimated total losses reach a colossal £97.7m when scaled up from our representative survey of 2,000 UK adults.
Here, Which? reveals the scale of the vouchers lost and explores what you can do to get yours extended.
- Read more: all our coronavirus news and advice
How much did people lose on expired vouchers?
The Gift Card and Voucher Association says the industry is worth nearly £7bn.
Many were left unable to spend vouchers when shops shut their doors between March and June this year.
While some retailers offered automatic extensions, giving shoppers the opportunity to spend vouchers after their expiry dates, others were less generous.
According to our survey, more than a third of those with a voucher that expired lost its entire value – £30, on average.
How were different groups affected?
Older shoppers were more likely to lose out on their vouchers, according to our survey. The percentage without extensions rose to 46% when looking just at people aged 55 and over.
Some 42% of 35 to 54-year-olds didn’t get extensions, but only 20% lost out from the 18 to 35-year-old age group.
Expiries also appeared to affect women more than men, with 43% of female respondents saying their vouchers weren’t extended, but only 28% of men saying the same thing.
- Find out more: five reasons to think twice before buying gift cards
How to get your vouchers extended
Which? is advising anyone who had a voucher that expired during lockdown to contact the company and ask for an extension.
We know that many retailers have been willing to extend their voucher expiry policies in light of COVID-19, so the date on your gift card isn’t necessarily final.
One person told Which?: ‘I emailed the company and explained that I wanted to use them, but the vouchers were due to expire before the company reopened after lockdown. The company responded promptly and extended the expiry date.’
Others had a less pleasant experience, with one saying: ‘It took a lot of emails. I felt anxious and annoyed.’
And it doesn’t always work, either, as retailers are usually within their rights to stick with their voucher expiry dates. Another person said they were ‘very disappointed’ when they contacted the company, who told them ‘hard luck, basically’.
Still, it’s worth getting in touch with the company your voucher’s with if you haven’t heard from them already to see if you can get yours extended.
Anyone considering buying shopping vouchers should be wary as many retailers have gone bust in recent months and there could be further lockdown restrictions in the near future, which could make it difficult to spend them
- Find out more: can I use vouchers if a company goes into administration?
Gift cards and vouchers: your rights
When you buy a gift card, it should have all its important T&Cs written on the voucher or its packaging. These must be brought to your attention at the point of purchase for them to be binding.
Usually, your gift card will have an expiry date. These can vary, so make sure you check them whenever you buy or receive one.
Even in extreme circumstances such as a national lockdown, you have no legal right to extend a voucher if its terms were clear when you bought it. It’s up to the retailer whether they want to be flexible.
If you’re worried about future lockdown restrictions once again making them hard to spend, look online to see if the company you’re buying from extended them last time – or contact it to find out if it would in the future.
- Find out more: what are my rights with gift cards and vouchers?