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Did you have a gift voucher expire during lockdown?

Some retailers extended gift cards that customers couldn’t spend during lockdown, but others weren’t so generous. Did you have one that expired?

In the run-up to Christmas last year, we warned readers that buying gift vouchers as presents was risky.

Obviously, we had no idea that the national lockdown following the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world would make them even riskier. 

With shops and restaurants closed and most events cancelled between March and July, many vouchers were rendered useless.

Guide: your rights with gift vouchers and cards

Time ticked on, and many worried as their vouchers reached their expiry dates.

Extending expiry dates

Usually these expiry dates are non-negotiable, and they can catch people out at the best of times.

But this year, many firms have recognised that people haven’t been able to spend them in the allotted time – so they’ve been in touch to extend them.

Sadly this wasn’t the case across the board, with many consumers left out of pocket by vouchers that weren’t extended. 

Tell us your story

We want to hear from you about your lockdown voucher experiences. 

If you had a voucher that expired during lockdown, did you manage to get it extended? And if so, did you have to phone up to do it? 

Conversely, did you call up to extend your voucher, only to be told the expiry date was final?

Let us know in the comments. 

Gordon Sharples says:
27 March 2021

I had Nottcutts Garden vouchers. I was moving home before the lockdown which then didn’t happen and then lockdown happened. Once the first lockdown was eased I then moved house as had originally planned but sadly the vouchers expired August and December 2020. This was to the tune of £100. I asked for consideration and was informed that they were only extending for 2 months and in the interests of fairness couldn’t do anything else. It seems that companies should therefore deem this as a charitable donation as we have received zero service or product in return. I had previously supported my local garden centre but this experience has really made me have a change of heart.

The message coming through this Conversation is to always spend vouchers as soon as possible after receipt. Companies are under no obligation to extend their availability.

There has been double jeopardy this last year or two with the economic recession leading to the cessation of trading by retailers and the Covid-19 lockdowns compelling the temporary closure of outlets.

The special problem with garden centres is that much of the stock and products are seasonal and so people sometimes need to keep vouchers for some months before they can spend them. There is a case for saying that, where there is a government-directed lockdown, the validity of any vouchers should be paused for those numbers of weeks and the cumulative total added to the expiry date. I appreciate that this could make for accounting difficulties with accruals but it must be possible for the accountancy profession to work out a practice direction to cover this contingency.

Gordon Sharples says:
9 April 2021

Would the companies have to disclose this as a charitable donation as receipt of vouchers is only an acceptance that funds are to be spent. If they are not how would this have to be accounted?

Kevinlong115 says:
28 March 2021

Argos do not extend expiry dates and do not give money back on expired cards. Found it difficult to use gift card online and shop only open for collection. I have lost £40 so far and have another voucher which expires nxt month. I am a 70 year old and have a husband with COPD so going out too often is detrimental to his health.

W Hereford says:
30 March 2021

We had an HTA Garden Voucher it had been activated in 2018 but did not expire until February 2021. As we were able to go out to a garden centre today I hoped to spend my £25 balance only to be told by the Card Support that they were unable to extend it. This is grossly unfair as the HTA have our friends money, it was a special gift but we are forced to lose it because they are being intransigent. I will not be buying a HTA ever again.

Had holiday vouchers to use by june 2020 by loyalty scheme from MKM builers merchants but due to pandemic unable to use. I called loyalty scheme in April 2020band was told the vouchers were being extended due to covid but no date was given. So i tried to use them this February(2021) but was told expired on dec 2020 without any correspondence from them trlling it was expring on that date. Made various calls and emails and finally got response saying voichers will not be hounured as i had time to book holidays. Sorry but where can you go during a pandemic and knowing if you did book someyhong it epuld be cancelled. Im at lose end regarding this and really annoyed with way ive been treated as this was supposed to be a loyalty bonus. Not a good word to say about MKM and love to shop vouchers as every email or phone call i make just gets shoved under carpet.

Love2shop are refusing to extend gift cards but have extended paper vouchers. I have £100 on a gift card which they are refusing to extend. I was told I had time to use them when I was gifted them before the shops closed for lockdown. Appalling customer service.

Sharon Cheshire says:
30 April 2021

I purchased a £100 afternoon tea voucher as a Christmas present from Hogarth Stone Manor in Kidderminster which has 6 months duration. It expires end of May and they refuse to extend even though we won’t be out of lockdown at the end of May. I know it’s been hard for hospitality but I work in hospitality as well…..

Hi there,
I brought some Pubtokens for Christmas presents ( £40 ) and due to the lockdown was unable to use them. On contacting PubTokens they will extend till Oct at my cost of £5 for re issue and pay the p+p to return the unused vouchers. Why can’t they just extend the vouchers without cost to myself. This very unfair as most company’s are extending the time at no cost . I have lost £8.00 of £40 and wont be using them again.

Pamela G says:
26 May 2021

Until yesterday, 25/5/21, I hadn’t been in town since the very beginning of lockdown in March 2020. I went to treat myself in Body Shop but was unable to use my Body Shop Gift card as it had expired during lockdown. I have just spoken to their Customer Service department to no avail. I am not happy!

I think retailers take the view that they have suffered economically more than their customers have, as well as having permanently lost many to the internet. I reckon they’re probably right.

I’m sure that many businesses have suffered but I don’t see that as a reason why Pamela and many others should lose the value of gift vouchers that have been purchased by themselves or as a gift. Companies have had the use of the money spent on vouchers.

I would like to see a ban on expiry dates on vouchers.

We have been asking for this for a long time. If a retailer has been paid, via a gift card, for a product or service then not only have they had the money but an interest-free loan to help finance their operation. There should be no expiry date.
@jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, have Which? any intention of pursuing this?

The Body Shop has an on-line operation. I think that makes a big difference.

If the gift card had not already expired it might have been possible to exchange it for a new one but we don’t know if that was possible.

Not everyone uses or trusts online shopping, a point that has been made many times. We do not know if Pamela shops online.

Nowadays we have to be careful to protect our money from scammers but when ‘reputable’ companies have had the use of our money and then a gift card becomes worthless, I see the expiry date as an unfair condition.

If I forget to pay in a cheque I can ask for it to be reissued, even though I may be required to pay a fee. A couple of years ago I found some travellers cheques hidden in a suitcase and the money was paid into my account promptly.

Companies have good accounting reasons to set an expiry date on gift vouchers. I appreciate that the recent exceptional circumstances have disrupted normal customer behaviour and would expect decent companies to act honourably [i.e. with generosity], but The Body Shop – for all its claims to be an ethical company – clearly believes that so long as it does no wrong it must be doing the right thing. This is commerce. I would like the law to be different and have previously suggested that the accountancy profession could find a way of dealing with accrued liabilities. We must learn that a gift voucher is a perishable product and must be consumed as soon as possible. I expect that is what the donor expects to happen as well as the issuing company.

Companies might have good accounting reasons but so do consumers who lose their money if – for any reason – they are unable to use a voucher before it expires. That would mess up my accounts. If I can have a cheque reissued for a small charge or free, then why not a gift voucher? It might be commerce but it’s your money and mine at stake.

I see no reason why a company could not make an administration charge for extending a gift voucher. Strictly speaking their contract is with the purchaser of the gift card and I expect some weaselly lawyer would say that the issuer has no control over when the gift card was donated in relation to its date of issue and the balance of its validity.

I am not a Body Shop customer but my wife is occasionally. Today we know more about the company than we did yesterday and that will lodge in our brains. If I was their commercial director I would change the policy but perhaps they don’t feel the need to do so.

Having passed through the hands of French toiletries colossus L’Oréal, The Body Shop is now owned by the Brazilian cosmetics company Natura. No stranger to controversy, the Body Shop brand trades on its legendary – but not always genuine – credentials so has a loyal following.

Money is perishable when I spend it but I do not think that is a reason to expect a retailer, who has had the use of the money paid upfront to purchase a gift card, should treat it as perishable (unless they go broke).

For the recipient, it is the value, not the stored money, that is perishable. They cannot get the money back; all they can do is acquire goods at prices that greatly exceed their book value.

Do retailers have the use of the money if their accountants tell them they must hold it in reserve as an accrual liability?

I am not in sympathy with my own arguments here so I shall say no more on this subject.

I have a £10 book token from last Christmas ticking away and had better venture into the city to find a ‘suitable’ birthday gift for the kind-hearted (!) relative who sent it to me. Shops like issuing vouchers because they know that the recipients will invariably spend more than they are worth.

I also think shops like issuing vouchers because a proportion will never be used – forgotten, lost, no interest in the product, or whatever. Real money spinners for someone.

I agree, though have no figures that would show how much money is lost.

I presume that some of the gift vouchers that have expired have been received when customers exercised their legal rights to return unwanted goods to a shop.

When I first heard about the Body Shop I assumed it was a place you took your car to be unbent.

Sue walkey says:
30 May 2021

Went to spend my expired Costa card in Cardiff this weekend and they refused to accept it,all other companies Miller and Carter for eg I had. 50 pound gift card they took it no trouble,was very disappointed not to be able to spend it,that can’t be right,it wasn’t our fault we couldn’t spend the gift card

Had an M & S voucher that expired during lock-down and they have informed me it will not be extended. Slowly going through my outstanding cards, total value £430 including ticket master, JD Sports and others. So far JD Sports sounds promising for extension so far, but that is just £60 of total unspent!

If you are a regular customer of these companies you might like to take your money elsewhere, Gary. I’m sorry you have been let down.

I get fed-up with companies like AA and RAC that hike their price for renewal of cover. After I have secured alternative cover I make a call and explain why I will not be renewing my cover. They always say that I should have contacted them for another quotation and I politely explain that they should not tried to exploit an existing customer.

Gary – That’s a lot of voucher value you’ve been hoarding. Some stores have been more reasonable in allowing extended validity and some outlets have continued trading on-line, but TicketMaster could have been more accommodating since almost every event has been cancelled and will not necessarily return and generally people want the specific artiste(s), performance and venue, not any old show.

Katy says:
17 June 2021

Had a restaurant voucher for £100 for a local high end restaurant- 2 bookings cancelled over lockdowns and will no longer honour the voucher so have basically stolen £100

Selfridges247 says:
21 June 2021

I had a White Company voucher expire during the lockdown. I went into the store to speak to a manager once everything reopened but they said that as I could have used the Credit online they won’t extend. I explained that during the lockdown I was a bit too preoccupied with other things aside from online shopping for candles and cashmere but they didn’t care. Very poor approach as I used to get all my presents from there – not anymore.

I had a gift choice card given to me as a present for my birthday last year and with the lockdown and all that was going on with covid 19 using my card was the last thing on my mind . I came to use it this month only it had expired. I had sent the company an email asking if they could extend it ? The reply I got was basically no and read the terms and conditions, no extensions allowed. Is there anything else I can do to try to extend it?

Deborah Williams says:
25 June 2021

I had two social choice vouchers worth £30 each which expired during lockdown. Couldn’t use them as restaurants were all closed and have been for months( I live in NW England). No extension allowed.

skorccio says:
29 June 2021

Ok, trying to cut a long story short, we received Argos e-gift vouchers in June 2020 as compensation from an insurance claim having had our car stolen along with contents. Most e-gift vouchers give you 2 years to use them, but for some reason these ones gave us 12 months.

What a rubbish 12 months it has been with all these lockdowns and working from home with three kids to juggle home schooling with, not to mention my wife’s father and uncle passing away. Spending the vouchers were not top of the list.

I mistakenly thought I had until the end of this month (June 2021), but alas it was the 17th. No problem, I thought, the nice people at Argos will extend the vouchers, after all, there is a balance of around £330, not something you could ignore. Argos will help.

Well no, they did not. Computer says no. They just cannot help, their system does not allow it.

Live chat helpfully passed a phone number to call (after a not so helpful 20 minutes of going in circles) so I could speak to a manager. So I subsequently wasted the following 30 minutes of my life, first trying to navigate the automated system, and then finally speaking to a lady who would not let me speak to the manager as there was nothing they could do and the matter was not worth the bother of the manager speaking to me. How rude.

She not so kindly refused to give me her full name, although I had given her mine. I apparently spoke to “Karen”, very apt. She helpfully pointed out that if I sent a complaint (via old fashioned stamp and postage method of course), they could work out who we spoke to by the time of the call, and so she did not need to identify herself. Well I am so shocked with Argos policy on this and their customer service too. Not very sympathetic or helpful in the least.

I feel as if I have been a victim of theft once more.

ellie says:
29 June 2021

Westfield ‘Flex-e’ Card – I had a voucher through work for Westfield but was unable to spend it before the first lockdown hit, during the year of on off lockdowns, I did not feel comfortable going to a shopping centre and so I did not use the voucher in time. They will not give me an extension.

I had love2shop vouchers that ran out during lockdown. They refused to extend the date on them.

Gill Dunn says:
15 January 2022

I had £150 theatre vouchers purchased through London Theatres Direct given to me as a gift by students when I retired as Head of Drama after 41 years of teaching. The expired after three months after theatres closed. They have refused to extend them, responding to my email with a standard depersonalised message. You cannot speak to anyone in person.