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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. 

Comments

I had £15 left on a £200 Café Rouge gift card that I had bought for 4 x £50 with 4 x £20 rebates from four American Express cards. I only bought the gift card because it was at a 40% discount. We finally used the remainder of the gift card when our local Café Rouge reopened last week.

I have much larger sums on gift cards with Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and John Lewis, which I similarly bought with 30% discounts via multiple American Express cards. I hope that none of these suffer the same risk as Café Rouge.

Gift vouchers for restaurants should come with a liquidation warning.

Now that commercial instability has been prolonged for a further six months [at least] it is impossible to predict which stores will survive on the high street but I am hoping those you cited will continue with on-line sales even if they have to rationalise their physical presence.

I had not expected to see the day when John Lewis [& Ptnrs] had to announce the closure of their newest store in Birmingham – not quite the flagship that is Selfridges’ Birmingham store but nevertheless a massive investment turned sour.

Yes, and Café Rouge is still selling gift cards on its web site. I checked this to make sure that my gift card would still be accepted. Even if they had ceased honouring their own gift cards, they couldn’t have refused it in settlement of a debt (for food already consumed), unlike a shop in liquidation which can refuse to sell goods in exchange for a gift card.

https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/almost-100m-lost-through-unused-shopping-vouchers-during-lockdown-which-reveals/
Why are those vouchers that are for money to spend on what you like, in one or more outlets, allowed to have an expiry date? Unless the trader goes out of business I see no reason why they can not have indefinite validity. I have used book tokens many years old that lay forgotten in a drawer.

Malcolm, you’re absolutely right. Before gift cards, we used to have gift vouchers, which were in paper format with their value printed on them. They never had expiry dates. Given that gift cards represent a very favourable interest-free loan to retailers by consumers, there is no reason for gift cards to have an expiry date, other than an unfair contract term that allows the retailer to retain the money without giving any goods or services in return. In my experience, if you cite Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to a retailer regarding an expired gift card, they will usually reinstate it.

Three years ago I posted:

I have just received the latest Which? magazine and one of the first articles is Gift cards: best and worst expiry dates.

Gift cards should not have expiry dates. They are money, and shops do not have the right to keep your money and give you nothing in return, it is in effect stealing if you get nothing for that money.

It is all very well stores saying they will extend dates, but as there is nothing on the cards to tell you how much is on them and when those cards run out, you have to rely on the goodwill and honesty of the store to reinstate their true value.

Stores must make a small fortune from expired gift cards and this is wrong and legalised theft.

I would like Which? to campaign stores to remove expiry dates from gift cards.

Lauren Dietz referred this to the Money and Consumer Rights team but as usual, any suggestion from a Which? member fell on deaf ears.

They were previously discussed here.

I found a JLP/Waitrose gift card that had expired in July with a smallish balance. I phoned the dedicated number – 0330 1234 024 – and, as a “goodwill gesture” – am being sent an e-voucher for the balance.

They tell me that the card is automatically extended for 2 years every time it is used but, if it is not used, you can go online to check the balance and that will do the same. I didn’t know that.

I do not see why these cards, prepaid with money, should not have indefinite life without having to take any action.

I agree malcolm.

Can I again suggest that Which? campaigns to get these expiry dates removed?

Last year The Guardian reported about £360 million each year gets pocked by stores from lost or expired gift cards.
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/dec/28/use-it-or-lose-it-consumer-experts-tell-gift-card-holders

I call it legalised theft.

Even if there is no expiry date, gift vouchers can become worthless.

I have a total of £185 of Kingfisher vouchers which I purchased long ago at a 10% discount in return for points collected by using my credit card. I intended to use them to purchase goods from B&Q but family illness resulted in me forgetting them for some years. Despite the fact that there is no expiry date, B&Q would not accept the vouchers, Kingfisher would not replace them and my credit card company would not help. I did post details in the early days of Convo and speak to someone at Which? to no avail. I live in hope that legislation might mean that I can recover my money.

I have had nothing to do with gift vouchers since.

Very true, I’ve still got an Allders gift voucher somewhere.

They should still not have an expiry date though.

Indeed. I don’t know why cheques have an expiry date. Sometimes they can be revalidated but if there is a charge it can exceed the value of a small cheque.

I hope that those who are denied extension of a gift voucher in these difficult times will avoid using the company involved.

My dad had bought my mum a voucher for a haircut back in January for her birthday, from the local salon she has been going to for the last 4 years. She doesn’t get much time to herself as she cares for her mum who is 95 and has dementia. Then lockdown happened and my parents, in their 70s, had to do the extended shielding due to my dad’s asthma, and of course the hairdressers were closed too for a long time. The voucher was valid for 6 months. When my mum finally booked her appointment a couple of weeks ago, they refused to honour the voucher with no discussion at all except to point out that the 6 months had passed! My mum will never go back there now. I think this was disgusting!