Should we bother with gift vouchers anymore?
As another big retailer – this time Comet – goes into administration, many gift voucher holders could be out-of-pocket. Is it time we turned our backs on gift vouchers and gift cards?
Vouchers are often no longer accepted when a retailer goes bust. And that’s even if the store continues to trade while the administrators do their work. Such is the case with Comet, which is no longer accepting gift vouchers as a form of payment, though its administrators are ‘reviewing this position urgently’.
What are your Comet gift voucher rights?
So what can you do with your Comet gift vouchers? Not much it seems, which is why it’s best to spend vouchers as quickly as possible when a store is rumoured to be going bust.
It’s the same story if the voucher or gift card was bought from a third-party retailer, such as a supermarket. Unfortunately you still don’t have a right to a refund or compensation from either retailer, which seems doubly unfair.
Why should we lose out after being given a voucher by a kind relative, or even by a shop assistant? What seems especially grating is that even if a retailer is still trading, you often can’t use your vouchers once the administrators are in place. Is that fair?
If you do have Comet vouchers, keep hold of them for now just in case the administrators decide to start accepting them again or any new owner decides to honour them as a gesture of good will.
What are your rights with faulty goods?
According to its website, Comet is planning a closing down sale. However, even if you were allowed to use your gift vouchers in the sale, there’s another problem waiting around the corner. You’ll effectively lose your usual rights under the Sale of Goods Act. This is because if a product develops a fault or isn’t fit for purpose, there won’t be a retailer to return your product to.
You will get protection from the manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee, but this is only for a set period of time (usually one to two years for electrical items). However, the Sale of Goods Act has the potential to offer protection beyond that.
One silver lining with Comet is that if you bought an extended warranty (which is not something we’d usually advise) it is provided by a separate company. The Warranty Group, which offered extended warranties for Comet, is unaffected and will continue to offer repairs.
Chargeback and claims against card companies
There are some other avenues you can explore if your Comet purchase is faulty. If you bought something that cost more than £100 on your credit card, you’ll be able to claim against your card company if your item turns out to be faulty.
And, in theory, you could use chargeback if the payment was made with a debit card (or a credit card for purchases under £100). However, this isn’t always successful since it’s dependent on your bank being able to grab back payment from the seller’s bank.
So, do you think there’s any value left in store vouchers? What’s in it for us consumers if we don’t have any rights? Have you been left with a voucher you can’t use after a retailer has gone bust?
[UPDATE 07/11/2012] – Comet’s administrators have announced that gift vouchers purchased by members of the public can now be used in stores again, recognising that the ‘suspension of gift cards has caused concern and anxiety to those customers affected’.
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