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Almost £100m lost through unused shopping vouchers

Written by: Emma Lunn
An estimated £97.7m was lost on shopping vouchers that went unused during lockdown, according to Which?

The consumer champion found a quarter (25%) of UK adults had a shopping voucher – worth £45 on average – that expired during the period when many shops and businesses were forced to close their doors.

Almost half (49%) of those with an expiring voucher said it was automatically extended by the retailer, while one in seven (15%) said they had to request an extension.

However, just over a third (36%) – an estimated 3.1 million people – didn’t receive an extension on their shopping vouchers worth £30 on average, automatically losing all the money they had left.

This equates to an estimated £97.7m across the whole of the UK.

Those from an older demographic were more likely to lose money, with almost half (46%) of those aged over 55 claiming they did not receive an extension for their shopping vouchers.

About two in five (42%) of those aged 35 to 54 didn’t receive an extension either, however this figure dropped to just one in five (20%) of those aged 18 to 35.

According to the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, the gift card industry is worth £6bn every year.

Many retailers introduced new Covid-19 terms and conditions during lockdown and offered to extend vouchers. But while some proactively reached out to customers, others were not so helpful.

One person told Which? they had emailed a retailer regarding vouchers that were due to expire during lockdown, and received a swift response extending the voucher, while another said they were left “disappointed” when they contacted the company who told them “hard luck, basically”.

Which? is advising anyone who had a voucher that expired during lockdown to contact the company to try and get an extension. All retailers should also be reasonable and extend vouchers that customers were not able to use during lockdown.

Anyone considering buying shopping vouchers should be wary, as coronavirus has had a severe financial impact on many retailers – with some big names disappearing from the high street altogether.

The possibility of further coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the near future could also make it difficult to spend vouchers.

Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?, says: “Our research suggests consumers may have lost tens of millions of pounds on expired vouchers during lockdown.

“Many retailers have extended shopping vouchers that expired during lockdown, so if you have a voucher you were unable to use it is worth contacting the company.

“Anyone considering buying a voucher should be aware of the risks, as some well-known retailers have collapsed in recent months and further coronavirus restrictions could make it difficult to spend vouchers and gift cards.”

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