/ Money

Is your gift or credit voucher expiring soon?

Have you got a gift card you’re waiting to use? Are you worried about it expiring or retailers going into administration? Here’s what you can do.

You might have received a gift card for Christmas, or be waiting to spend one that’s soon to expire, but with all non-essential shops closed due to lockdown restrictions, you could be waiting a while before being able to spend it.

We want to hear if you’re holding onto a gift voucher that can’t be spent yet, or are having trouble extending your expiry date.

Do you have a gift card you can't spend yet?
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Gift card lockdown expiry dates

With all non-essential shops closed, you might be concerned about missing out on spending your gift or credit voucher.

Last year, our research revealed that shoppers lost millions in expired vouchers during the first national lockdown.

Only 49% of people received an automatic extension on their gift cards, while 15% had to ask to have theirs extended. 

It’s well worth reaching out to the retailer – via their customer service department or on their social media channels – to make sure you can get your expiry date extended, as some stores might not offer automatic extensions.

Let us know in the comments how you get on and if any retailers refuse to extend your voucher.

What if the retailer fallen into administration?

A string of well-known high street retailers fell into administration last year, including the Arcadia group.

Topshop customers took to Twitter after discovering they could only use 50% of the amount on their gift cards to pay for an order. The remaining half has to be paid with customers’ own money.

While this policy may feel unfair, administrators are within their rights to stop accepting gift cards once a retailer has gone bust. It’s important to spend yours quickly if you’re concerned.

Here’s how to get your money back if a company goes bust.

Have you had problems using a gift card with a troubled retailer? Do you have a gift card you’re waiting to spend but can’t due to the national lockdown?

Comments

Given that the UK is an international leader in consumer law, I’m surprised that the UK has not enacted legislation to prohibit gift card expiry terms of less than a certain number of years, perhaps 6 years to match Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980 (or 5 years in Scotland).

Unusually other common law countries have beaten the UK to this. In Ireland, the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019 prohibits gift card expiry terms of less than 5 years. In Australia, Regulation 92A of the Competition and Consumer Regulations 2010 requires gift cards to be redeemable for at least 3 years with effect from 1st November 2019.

There is no good reason for gift cards to have expiry dates. When gift vouchers were the norm, they almost never had expiry dates. I would argue that, if a gift card has a contractual term allowing the retailer to retain the money after a certain date without supplying any goods or service in return, then it’s an unfair contract term, and therefore unenforceable pursuant to Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. I have used this argument in the past to persuade retailers to extend expired gift cards.

Can’t remember who it was now, but a ‘gesture of goodwill’ was how one retailer called extending an expiry date.

Yes, they will always call it a goodwill gesture in order to avoid admitting an error, which other consumers could cite to their advantage.

I do not think vouchers with a declared value already paid for should have any expiry date.

Company-specific vouchers will be at risk of a company ceasing to trade. If confidence needs to be boosted then the industry could fund and set up a protection scheme.

I agree. There should be no expiry date. The only exception, which the Australian legislation mentions, is where a gift card is given out for free by its issuer as a promotion. Given that no consumer has paid for such a gift card, it is reasonable to impose a short expiry date on it.

@gmartin, George, are Which? interested in campaigning to have the expiry date removed from paid-for vouchers with a declared value?

There aren’t any plans to launch a campaign around gift cards at the moment, but we will continue to highlight any issues and provide advice around people’s rights, as Hannah has done here.

It is over 10 years ago that Which? highlighted expiring gift cards, so isn’t it about time a campaign was launched to get rid of this thieving practice?

Just over a year ago, The Guardian reported about £360m each year is pocketed by stores from cards that get lost or expire.

That seems in the same league as APP scams that Which? do campaign about. And only a quarter of consumer detriment – £1.5bn – arising from parking penalties.
I wonder what criteria Which? use to decide what is worth campaigning about and what they choose to ignore.
Maybe if Members played some role in the way Which? works – Member engagement – there would be more attention paid to consumer detriment?

I have been caught out once with worthless gift vouchers and since then have avoided using them.

Can I claim a refund for a voucher bought at Vue Cinema which is of course is now closed.

Barbara – Have you contacted Vue Cinemas or checked their website? I have a vague memory from a previous enquiry along these lines that Vue Cinemas had agreed to extend the validity of their vouchers. I do not know whether they will refund the price of the voucher and such a concession might only be available for the original purchaser.

The commercial reasoning behind vouchers is that they are used reasonably soon after purchase in order to boost turnover, but where that has been made impossible any compensation will depend on the terms and conditions attached. In the case of cinema vouchers their value also relates to the appeal of the films being shown during the periods when cinemas were allowed to open and the last year or so has not scored highly in that regard. I suspect there are a lot of vouchers around that have not been redeemed and, with no box office sales, the company might be worried about refunding them.

I was given a “One4all” gift card, allegedly redeemable at a number of shops, either in-store or on-line. It turns out that it’s actually a pre-paid Visa card. Although the expiry date on the card is 12/2024, the small print states that the company will start to deduct 90p/month, 18 months after the card was issued.
At the present time it is impractical to use the card in-store so I looked at on-line use. It turns out that the maximum on-line transaction is £40 and it is impossible to make an additional ‘top-up’ payment for a larger purchase. To completely use a £60 card online would mean making two purchases of £40 or less, with a total value of exactly £60. (Any small change would be kept by the card issuer).
After several emails, the company said it would transfer the balance to my bank account (after deducting a £7.50 fee, of course).
Here comes the interesting part. In order to make the refund, they require bank details (reasonable), passport/driving license and utility bills – due to “regulatory requirements” – ie everything needed to commit identity fraud.

Wow, what an awful company to have to deal with, and I agree with your identity fraud concerns.

Boots do free delivery if you spend £30. I think I would try to spend the money rather than give One4all money for nothing.

I only glanced at their website and T&Cs, but the £40 limit wasn’t obvious. Is that a hidden condition?

I don’t recall whether I saw it on their website or ‘Trustpilot”. However, here’s a quote from the Riverisland site (one of the shops that accepts One4all):
“The EU’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive means that there is now an online spend limit on all anonymous prepaid cards, including the One4all Gift Card. Online transactions are limited to £40 per transaction”.
The problem seems to be that they’re calling it a gift card when it isn’t – it’s a much more regulated debit card.
The trouble with any gift card/voucher is that it’s very difficult to tell the purchaser that it’s causing problems.

Another alternative could be to buy items from somewhere like M&S and then return them. If you ‘lose’ or cannot provide the ‘gift card’ for a refund, they should give you an M&S gift voucher then you will be rid of One4all.

I have had a quick look at M&S and can’t see any info for anything other than their own gift cards, but they do have an online chat that could tell you how much you can spend at a time, etc.

hi. we have a number of John Lewis vouchers that were given to us as wedding presents. We got married 3 years ago this July. We have moved house several times since and managed to keep on top of expiring cards etc. But to our horror on sorting through some wedding cards we found a John Lewis voucher for £150 that expired last year. We contacted customer services who were helpful and suggested we write and explain what had happened. This we did and got completely turned down, we then appealed and were still turned away. We have spent a lot of money with John Lewis over the years and more recently moving house, grandchildren’s presents etc. a lot more. I will not spend another penny with them, they are thieves, they have our friend’s £150 and refuse to honour the gift. They have not got gone bust, but they have lost our considerable custom and I will extend the ban to Waitrose.
It should be against the law to have an expiry date. I cannot see any valid reason for it, except to make money for the store.
This is precisely what Which is about to fight for the consumer who is being ripped off.

Hi Andy,
I don’t understand why, but Which? has been strangely silent over this massive rip-off.

I suggest you write to the CEO. Be nice, but upset at how you have been treated after shopping with JL and spending a great deal of money with them over the years. Not a good idea to call them thieves if you want to get them onside.
https://www.ceoemail.com/

The CEO’s office staff are usually much more sympathetic to situations like yours whereas first line defence are just doing there job as they see it.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Andy – You should let John Lewis know that you had intended to buy a big ticket item costing far more than £150 but would now go elsewhere unless they changed their tune.