/ Money

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!

I have a £150 Spafinder Voucher that expired in May 2020 so was unable to use do to the National Lockdown. I have emailed them various ways and tried to call and get no response!!

Val white says:
4 November 2020

I have a £40 vue cinema gift card that’s due to expire at Christmas ,I have tried so many times to contact vue either by email or phone to no avail, I went into the cinema and ask one of the staff ,all they gave me was the same telephone number that I had been trying to contact already..not very helpful..

Hello, I have a VUE Cinema voucher bought for me on the 28th November 2019 by my daughter for my Chrismas gift, Unfortunately because of Covid 19 lock down and the cinema’s not being open since March I have been unable to use it. Will this voucher use by date be extended and if so how do I go about doing this? Thanks Steve

[Moderator: this comment has been converted to sentence case. Please don’t use all caps as that reads as shouting. For more information see the Community guidelines]

Stephen – I wouldn’t wish to raise your hopes: the voucher was purchased nearly four months before the lockdown started on 16 March 2020 so in the company’s eyes you might have had an ample opportunity to use it. Indoor theatres were allowed to reopen from 15 August 2020, and Vue cinemas did so, subject to restrictions, so there might have been a further opportunity to see a film before now.

I note that Vue gift cards have a validity of 12 months so, without any extension, yours will expire before the second lockdown ends. Although pre-bookings and tickets will be honoured I can find nothing on the Vue website that deals with your question about an extension to the gift vouchers, so I suggest you contact their customer services on 0345 308 4620.

There is always the possibility, of course, that what’s showing between now and the expiry of your voucher will not be very appealing to you and that a six-month extension [to compensate for the two lockdown periods] would offer little improvement.

I had a £30 gift card for JD sports. I had issues getting it to work on their website. Spent 5 days discussing it with their cust service and social media team. At the end of the 5 days my card expired something they were very quick to point out. I now have no card.

Angela Bickett says:
23 November 2020

My partner purchased and gifted me a voucher as a Christmas present last Christmas (2019) for Shoe Embassy (Brighton). The voucher was purchased on 24 Dec 2019 and upon giving it to me a day later, I remember thinking that an expiry date of only six months wasn’t great, but I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, either?! Excited to go shopping with my £100 voucher in hand, hoping to find a bargain in the January sales, turned out to be rather disappointing, but expected, as most items weren’t in my size. Not to fear, the lovely staff member assisting me told me to try back in a couple of weeks when new stock would be available, or to try any of their other shops, but unfortunately my voucher could not be used online. Again, I thought to myself what retailer this day and age doesn’t allow online shopping, but didn’t want to argue the point at the time? I returned some time in February and to my dismay, didn’t fancy any of the new stock, but did pick up a pair of shoes on sale, leaving me with £60.40 to spend before voucher expiry on 24 June 2020.

The pandemic hit , in-person shopping for non-essential items became taboo and we shortly thereafter were forced into a national lockdown. Retailers could again open in June 2020, provided they were to adhere to social distancing guidelines, but not all opened straight away including Shoe Embassy. Roughly around August, I personally felt that it was safe again to visit retailers and popped into Shoe Embassy to ask what, if anything, would be done on the use of expired gift vouchers that couldn’t be spent during lockdown. The friendly member of staff didn’t have a clear answer to give but instead suggested that I pop back into the shop with my voucher when a manager was present, who would be glad to help, but only Thursday to Sunday as they had reduced their trading hours. Fair enough, I thought – it is a very strange time with lots of uncertainty. I attended again a week or so later only to find that the Brighton store was closed with a grammatically incorrect, typed A4 letter, taped to the window stating that the shop was shut and to come back in September when they hoped to be open again. I visited the shop on several different occasions in September, thinking that perhaps they had gone into administration only to find that they were still shut and there were no updates in their window display or online – now I really thought they had gone bust. Eventually they opened again (yippee) and I went in early October with the voucher in hand for some guidance. I was given the email address for customercare@embassylondon.co.uk. and instructed to email them to see if they would be willing to provide me with an extension and possibly an online code due to further talks of a second national lockdown looming, as this method is what staff were instructed by management to advise all who asked. I’m now on about my 7th email exchange to Customer Care, who has ensured me that ‘they can’t help further’, ‘I should’ve reached out sooner’, ‘I can’t speak to anyone higher in the organisation’, “excuse, excuse, excuse”, and that now they are ‘deadlocking’ my complaint, meaning that they won’t correspond about the matter any further. I’m of the opinion that of the last 11 months, the organisation only being open to trade in person, for 3-4 months of that time, is out of my control.

Well, now I am stuck with £60.40 that I can’t use and feel nothing but shock, frustration and upset at the way they have treated me at the managerial level. If only they had the same customer service that surely they must engrain upon the customer-facing staff, having only experienced kindness and professionalism while visiting. I manage commercial properties for a living and I’m all too familiar with the struggles that all organisations are currently experiencing across the nation and world right now and the last thing any retailer, especially a smaller one, should want is to lose a faithful customer. I have had no hand in controlling the pandemic but feel that as a result of it, I am being penalised by the unfair tactics of this company to keep my £60.00. In all honestly, I didn’t want my money back but merely an extension of time for the period that they were forced to shut, and, it was likely that I would have spent more than the voucher amount anyway, as most of the shoes retail upward of £90.00. I only hope that some sort of legislation as a result of the pandemic, comes into place to protect those like me who have been affected during this period.

I’ve checked with Citizen Advice, Trading Standards (where no precedent has yet been set) and of course Which.co.uk who fortunately have this outlet for me to vent! Any advice?

Love2Shop have point blank refused to honour vouchers that expired during the first lockdown in England in March 2020. Really unhappy.

Linda says:
30 November 2020

I have just phoned Vue cinemas as I was given a gift card last Christmas. I gave the card number and the voucher has been extended to 12 months from today, no quibble

I wonder whether Steven Shaddick [https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/expired-gift-voucher-card-coronavirus-lockdown/#comment-1611283] is reading this. If so I hope he can use your experience if he managed to contact Vue Cinemas to ask for an extension to his gift voucher given last year as a Christmas present.

Kit Rolland says:
3 December 2020

I was brought a tattoo gift card for Christmas last year with a 12 months expiry on it. The shop shut at the end of March due to the pandemic and has only just reopened. I have been told that the voucher has to be used by the end of December this year but they are fully booked so it now cant be used – is this right?

I had £300 of Love To Shop vouchers presented as an incentive by my company. I tried to use them last week to be told they had expired. I emailed LTS and explained that due to lockdown I was unable to use my vouchers and asked for a one month extension. They replied that they basically weren’t interested and pointed to their Ts & C’s. I’m disgusted by this none flexible response.

R Boisclair says:
17 December 2020

My mum (who used her pension) purchased a £30 gift voucher for a pedicure as a present to me in Feb 2020 just before lock down. The expiration date was April 2020. In Feb we had no idea that COVID would have the impact it had. She got in touch with them and they said they would extend it to Oct – which is when we went into lockdown again. My husband is extremely vulnerable so we couldn’t mix until August and even then, we were nervous about mixing. I got in touch with the salon and asked if we could extend the voucher until next year or have a refund. I would prefer a refund since we do not know what is going to happen. The reply I got was –

Due to lockdown we extended all vouchers by 3 months however this voucher is almost 8 months out of date so we won’t be able to honour the entire value. As a gesture of goodwill we would like to honour 50% of the voucher’s original value (£15.00) to use for your birthday in February.
This voucher is not valid during December.
Kind regards,

I am not happy with this response – would you be? The voucher has monetary value – it is not like I have had a treatment and want my money back, it’s not like I have purposefully not attended. Surely a small business should be more supportive? There was zero compassion in the response. Most people I know that have had vouchers have been contacted by the salon to say that they have made their vouchers open ended because nobody can plan. Which I think is fair! they are not losing the business since the voucher has already be paid for?

Thoughts please?

Thanks

I appreciate your frustration regarding the pedicure voucher and I can see it from both sides, as I am a business owner and I am a small business myself, it has been a shambles of a year, I have had to close for 19 weeks in total with no income or help because I am in my first year of trading, I offer gift vouchers which are valid for 6 months, I extended my vouchers for the amount of weeks I was closed, which still gives them 6 months to use the voucher, I have had a client contact me after one has expired 2 months over the 6 month period, and as a good will gesture I offered the voucher for half the value, I feel we have to have some sort of boundaries as a business, if we keep extended vouchers constantly we will not be able to earn any money to keep our doors open, I appreciate you have already paid but there is terms and conditions on a voucher for a reason, I think if we are willing to meet clients half way it would be nice to think they would do the same under these awful times.

If you have been paid in advance for a service by issuing a voucher then that money has helped your business. I see no reason why you should then feel you can withdraw the service paid for, in whole or in part. You are not being asked to return any money.

The voucher that was purchased from me was bought last November, we wasn’t in this awful situation then fighting for our businesses/livelihood and I did still give the 6 months that was stated on the voucher, once the six months has expired and the treatment hasn’t been taken then why should that be down to the business to lose out, we have offered a services and it hasn’t been taken, hence why under the current situation I offered it at half price, we all need to compromise and pull together on both sides as a good will gesture, to help everyone pull through this awful time, it’s so difficult having no wages for 19 weeks and then trying to build a business back up that is only operating at 40% and then we are expected to give away treatments. It is not that we are withdrawing the services it’s that we are following the terms and conditions that is stated on the voucher at time of purchase, they have still been entitled the six months.

These terms and conditions are unfair, in my view. I believe that vouchers should have no expiry when purchased with cash and hope legislation will address that. Perhaps the best thing is to issue a voucher against a card and then only charge the cardholder when the voucher is used. There are suppliers I deal with where goods ordered are only paid for when they are despatched.

Diane says:
22 December 2020

I had a £25 gift card purchased in Tesco for Debenhams. Due to lockdown I was unable to visit the store and then the card expired. I contacted both companies but neither were helpful. Where did the £25 go, surely companies can not do this.

Richard Birkhead says:
22 December 2020

I have a £70 pre paid matercard that was valid for 1 year and expired at the end of November 2020, it can’t be used online so I’ve obviously been unable to use it due to several rounds of lockdowns and isolations. I contacted the company with no reply.
I also have a costa coffee card, also expired.
I really think these gift card companies don’t deserve to be in business and i will never use one again, I’m sure they bank on people not using them in time for their profits.

Diane says:
24 December 2020

I had a liverpool one voucher bought for me last christmas but with the lockdown was unable to use it will it still be available to use?

I had a £30 Social Choice gift voucher I could not use due to lockdown and social isolation. It has expired. Despite contacting the company several times they did not extend the voucher and did not refund nor explain what happens to the money. Very disappointed with the poor customer service. Would never buy or ask to receive another Social Choice gift.