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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

It is now three months since @iaikman provided this Conversation.

If there is little or no hope that those who have bought gift vouchers but not been able to use them due to the pandemic, then Which? should be warning us all to avoid buying gift vouchers. I would prefer Which? to rattle the cage of government to ban gift vouchers that expire.

I have two John Lewis vouchers that expired during the lockdown.

No offer for any assistance.

James – John Lewis’s on-line services have been operating normally throughout the period so perhaps they think customers have had every chance to use any vouchers.

Sadie says:
12 January 2021

If you were given a ‘gift’ voucher as a present, shopping online is not the same as browsing in store for something. Of course they should be extended during this pandemic, same as holidays can be amended

In the case of holidays the operator could not fulfil the contract and is legally obliged to refund any payment made. That is not the case with gift vouchers where there is also an on-line option. For gift vouchers, the terms & conditions are as specified by the provider.

Sham Ediri says:
30 January 2021

I too have a John Lewis gift voucher which expired in August 2020. Tried to ring to explain but off course no help. Just replied that could have used for on line shopping!!! of course if I was in a mind to do shopping I would have used it??? Very unhelpful

All I can say is “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”.

We have a zizzi restaurant gift card about to expire in a couple of weeks. I’ve tried contacting zizzi and no response. They won’t answer emails. Facebook etc

Had a quick look at this for you, it does mention on the FAQ’s that the gift cards have been extended. Annoying you can’t speak to anyone right now but hopefully the website information will update with another extension.

https://www.zizzi.co.uk/faq

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-are-my-rights-with-gift-vouchers-and-cards

Please do keep us updated with this.

I had a voucher for the Bentall Centre in Kingston (called an E-Flex card) which expired after 12 months in December 2020, when the shopping centre was closed (London in Tier 4). I’ve been told I have to pay £9.95 in order for it to be extended, which I’m currently appealing.
Shocking that companies are profiting from this situation, when it’s been impossible to spend the voucher (not valid online).

Jean Bradshaw says:
20 January 2021

Mitchell and butler dining out cards expired during lockdown anyone else got these and are they being refunded

ROSE Faulkner says:
2 March 2021

i also have one not able to use worth20pound cant get any help from the ard holders tried always

Stu says:
13 March 2021

Mitchell and Butler say they will extend expired cards. Just email us your gift card or digital code number to guest.care@mbplc.com. You should get a reply saying they will extend the dates when
they re-open.

Stephanie says:
23 January 2021

I bought my husband a 150 gbp T M Lewin voucher last Christmas. They have a really poor online rating and he would have preferred to pop into a store in the city (but obv that wasn’t possible). Emailed them 1 week after it expired on Dec 17 and so far they’ve offered a ‘goodwill’ 20 gbp. What a joke, I will never buy a gift card / voucher again and frankly they should be disallowed or forced to have no expiry. They take the cash and provide nothing to a significant number of their purchasers.

Elsie says:
2 February 2021

We have a cheshire oaks giftcard which is due to expire. We’re a shielding household so were unable to go to spend it before lockdown 3. They haven’t replied to my messages.

Sarah says:
15 February 2021

I was given a Range voucher a year ago for Christmas, and the buyer wasn’t informed it could only be used in store. I am clinically vulnerable & the neatest store is 40mins away, therefore not been able to use it during shielding & lockdown. It goes out of date in March this year. They were incredibly unhelpful & won’t extend it, exchange for another voucher or anything. They told us to get someone to do the shopping for us – but how are those people going to get it to us when they live over an hour away and aren’t in our bubble? It feels like I’m being penalised for obeying government guidelines and being clinically vulnerable. It doesn’t feel fair during circumstances outside of anyone’s control to not have allowances available.

Yes Ihave a gift card that expired the end of November 2020 as spoken to John Lewis but they say it’s their policy and I could have spent it on line which is true but I might want to have gone into the store I hope that which takes this up for the consumers and raises this strongly with the government
Also there are some people in the community that do not have access to online or the computer skills. It appears to be a biased policy.

Malcolm – You had over four months in which to spend the voucher in a John Lewis or Waitrose store before the epidemic caused the closure of non-essential retail premises. Waitrose supermarkets and shops remained open during the lockdowns and there was a period when other shops opened again. On-line purchasing was possible throughout.

I would expect John Lewis to be sympathetic [within reason] to the disadvantaged people you referred to but you do have computer skills and access to the internet so I doubt you are in that category.

I do not see why gift cards that have been bought for cash should have any expiry date.

John – Just because someone can use a computer online does not mean that they would be safe or feel safe to shop online. Many people have never shopped online and some that have have been victim of scams. Many have not been in a shop during the pandemic and have relied instead on family and friends to provide them with groceries.

Gift vouchers have their uses and they allow companies free use of our cash. I believe that expiry dates should be banned.

Banning expiry dates on gift card should be a very easy law to implement and something Which? should campaign for.

Not sure which ones now, but the dates on some gift cards can be extended if you log into your account before the cards expire.

There has never been a better time to push for a ban. Is there a. consumers’ association that could help us?

It might be useful to start a Convo that explores organisations that can help with customer detriment where it appears to be outside Which?’s ability or remit.
@gmartin, George, would Which? consider that?

Wavechange – I appreciate the point you are making about people’s on-line capabilities, but by their very nature gift cards are usually given to people who know the donor and the donor knows them. I would not give a gift card to someone who I knew was unable to use it. If I received a gift card and was unable to use it I would ask the donor to take it back or help me find a way of making use of it. I think sometimes we get too caught up in ‘what if’ scenarios and lose sight of the realities.

I would support a ban on expiry-dated vouchers. I certainly don’t think there should be an expiry date on vouchers that are just stored cash, but from the issuers’ point of view they are stored liabilities. I spend any vouchers a.s.a.p. before the supplier folds or – as John Lewis and M&S are doing around the country – they close the local stores.

Gift vouchers are increasingly being used as commercial temptations or marketing promotions. Two or three a week fall out of the envelopes I open from companies I don’t deal with. Sometimes they are used as an incentive to renew a subscription or take out membership of something. I could open a wine vault if I took advantage of all the offers I get for increasingly generous amounts but they have little value for me and so they go in the bin.

John – I am referring to gift vouchers that have been paid for. I referred to: “Gift vouchers have their uses and they allow companies free use of our cash.” Let’s just agree that purchased vouchers should not expire.

I agree about the importance of using vouchers promptly, especially at a time when businesses are failing.

In responding to Mr Cheshire I assumed that he also was referring to gift vouchers that had been paid for and had been given to him. Apart from my later references to gift vouchers used for marketing and promotional purposes [which presumably are not paid for until they are redeemed], I have been considering the question of their expiry and whether it is reasonable for them to be open-ended. On balance I felt it would be more helpful if they did not have an expiry date, and then wondered whether that should be enshrined in law or left to the discretion of the issuing company. My preferred solution would be for vouchers to have a legal minimum validity of, say, two years. Looking at it from the donor’s perspective, I would wish my friend or relative in receipt of my gift card instead of a physical present to use it quickly. As the occasional recipient I prefer a voucher instead of an unsuitable gift and recognise that they devalue over time due to inflation so don’t like to have them sitting in my wallet or lying in a drawer.

I am in favour of having gift vouchers for the same reason as you, John. I am not convinced why they need any expiry date. I have pre-Covid paper £20 notes and know that my bank will accept them post-Covid, whenever that happens. I had left over travellers’ cheques from when I used to travel for work and add on a holiday, and the bank gave me a full refund years later.

It can take a year or more to settle an estate and I don’t see why anyone should lose out just because it suits the company that provided the vouchers and has had use of the money.

I had john lewis vouchers totalling £950 – one expired in December and another in February and they have refused to extend it or offer another solution. The pandemic is an extraordinary circumstance and as such that should be taken into account particularly as i have tried to spend them in between but alot of their products are out of stock online and their stores have been closed for most of the year. Its free money for them and i appreciate they are experiencing a tough time but its very unfair.

Malcom it seems you are lucky that they sent you an e-gift card. I am gutted – any advice appreciated

Max, email the CEO of John Lewis and try to be polite. To keep £950 and give you nothing in return is just daylight robbery.
https://www.ceoemail.com/

I recently used some John Lewis vouchers [totalling about £150] and I don’t think they had an expiry date on them so different types could be available.

Maybe they have been reading Which? Conversation. 🙂

Janie Cockburn says:
4 March 2021

I have a voucher for Twenty Princes Street restaurant in Edinburgh. It was bought for my husbands birthday last year. We have been unable to go as lockdown and shielding prohibited this. Tier levels also applied stopped us. We have had no reply by phone or e-mail. Very disappointed in this hotel restaurant. Perhaps they won’t need our business when open.

I have National Garden vouchers that expired 31st December 2020. Their head office has refused to extend them, saying that garden centres have been open during lockdowns (although not all) and meet health and safety guidelines. I have been unable to shop as I have been sheilding, so this feels really unfair. The vouchers cannot be used online. Our local garden centre have said that if the vouchers were their own they would have no hesitation.

Lyn says:
26 March 2021

We are in exactly the same situation – my husband has cancer and has been shielding and we are being told that we should have given them to a family member to spend – very helpful, not!!!

I have £800 worth of Restaurant Choice Gift Cards which are due to expire on June 2nd. I phoned to ask what their covid extension policy is and if I can extend the expiry date. They said that I won’t be able to find out if I can extend my gift vouchers for their full amount until 1st June which is when they decide what their policy on covid extensions is for the month. Therefore I am stuck with £800 worth of gift cards which I can’t spend in restaurants and I have no way of knowing if they will extend the validity. There are no terms and conditions related to this on their website at all.

Kidders says:
8 March 2021

We were given RHS vouchers for Christmas 2019 which we wanted to use for the Hampton Court show. This show was cancelled in 2020 so we waited to book for July 2021, which only just came on sale in March 2021. The voucher expired 16/12/20 but the RHS is steadfastly refusing to allow us to extend the voucher (bought via the TicketFactory, who are being blocked by the RHS). Their reasoning is that there were shows bookable in the autumn, however we never saw any available online when we checked – and don’t believe Hampton Court was ever available that early.
I don’t think we are going to get anywhere with this, but we are incredibly frustrated and disappointed at what feels like theft.

I think hospitality businesses, and membership organisations like the RHS, are shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t extend the validity of vouchers.

Obviously, as soon as they can open to the public again, they want cash in their hands, not vouchers. They have been living off the money paid for the vouchers throughout the lockdowns but their policy is short-sighted. It will kill the market for vouchers which must be quite lucrative. They are a convenient and welcome form of gift that prompt people to do things and spend money they might not otherwise do in places they might not otherwise visit. The additional sales at RHS gardens deriving from visitors with gift vouchers will be lost and never made up. The same goes for restaurants who might have sold an extra bottle of wine or a more expensive meal if customers were able to use a voucher; without a voucher they just won’t go there.

Spending £800 worth of restaurant vouchers in a full year would be quite a challenge [assuming they did not cover the entire bill] but with little over a month left it must be almost impossible – if I were in your shoes I would give it a go though if I could afford the balance payments.

Jaye says:
15 March 2021

Was given Love2 Shop vouchers. They refused to extend them as they were given to me and not purchased by me.

My husband received National Garden Gift Vouchers for his birthday in October 2019 .By March of 2020 we were in lockdown. October 2019. He waited to use them in Spring to buy Tulip bulbs.
. Both in our seventies with underlying health issues, we have been isolating for almost a year
Our garden vouchers have now expired . I rang to ask if they could extend them. Their reply Nothing we can do.
Well, there is actually if you had the goodwill and customer care policy. Shame on you
National Garden Gift Vocher.

Irene – I can understand the policy of the National Gardens gift voucher scheme. They are promotional products designed to increase sales. Extending last year’s vouchers to this October won’t be of much help to the growers, nurseries and garden centres who need current orders and funds. The money used to buy your husband’s vouchers has contributed to keeping the horticultural industry going through a very difficult period but they need new money now. It is a pity that the vouchers are not eligible for use on-line because a lot of plant merchants have been able to continue trading that way.

Your husband could have used his vouchers from October 2019 to March 2020 before the first lockdown but it is unlikely that any tulip bulbs would have been on sale after Christmas 2019. October 2019 would have been the perfect time for your husband to have bought his tulips for planting in November or early December that year and showing in Spring 2020 and again this Spring.

According to the National Garden Gift Voucher scheme website [under FAQ’s], “the vouchers have expiry dates because of accounting regulations which govern how unspent gift vouchers need to be accounted for in company accounts. Put simply, if we didn’t have or enforce an expiry date, then it would create a liability on our balance sheet that would last forever, which we cannot sustain“. In answer to the question “where does the money from expired unspent vouchers go?” the site goes on to explain “we’re a not-for-profit organisation, so the money is used to fund activities that promote and support gardening good causes and charities“.

Mike Fitchett says:
22 March 2021

Sadly same here for HTA garden vouchers. Very hard to spend in lockdown. I am now 3 months post expiry. They won’t help.

It leaves me with a very bad feeling towards them. I can’t say I would support them in the future.

Marie Rogers says:
25 March 2021

I have a gift choice gift card that expired during lockdown. The company refused to extend it!
It’s terrible that some companies are profiting out of a global pandemic and no one seems to be challenging them! Which? Citizens Advice? Anyone??

Hayley says:
25 March 2021

I bought a £10 local shopping centre gift card just before lockdown. I haven’t been out much let alone to a shopping centre. It has now expired and no way of getting it touch. I have lost out but i am luck it was only £10 compared to some other people.