Alison asks: My husband and I were given £400 of Habitat vouchers for our wedding. Unfortunately, as I have health problems, we struggled to get into any of the Habitat stores to use them and I couldn’t use them online.
When we eventually got to go, around five months later, I checked the Habitat website to find that they had stopped taking vouchers a few weeks before. I emailed them to see if they would make an exception, but I only got a standard reply saying ‘sorry we can’t’.
So I emailed them twice more, with no response. I understand their trading conditions, but this has been stressful and upsetting when I think of all the love that went into buying them and now I feel that I have lost all my friends’ money.
I have been a Habitat customer for years and feel that it has just lost a loyal client. Is there anything I can do?
Joanne Lezemore, Senior Solicitor for Which? Legal Service responds:
What a horrible situation for you, no wonder you have found it stressful and upsetting. But unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that you probably have no legal recourse.
However, it will depend on whether the gift voucher states an expiry date or whether the terms and conditions make it clear that by giving notice they can change the conditions (although such a clause may be deemed unfair). Do have a good read through the T&Cs on your voucher to see if there are any dates or references about notice periods.
Whenever you enter into a contract you are only bound by the T&Cs that are brought to your attention at the time. Therefore, if there is no mention of an expiry date, you may be able to go back to Habitat.
However, even if there is no expiry date, you will need to talk to your friends and family who purchased the vouchers. Ask them whether, at the time of purchase, they were told of the expiry (either verbally or by ticking a box agreeing to T&Cs if they were purchased online). If they were, again you would not be able to claim.
I hope this helps you and good luck getting Habitat to change its mind. Please be aware that the guidance given is limited by the information I have and should not be treated as a substitute for taking full legal advice.
Have you ever been caught out by the terms and conditions on gift cards and vouchers – and did you have better luck getting the issue resolved?