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BLOG: ‘Groupon Bucks? No thanks, I want my money back’

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from Groupon at the end of January 2021 informing me that my refund had been processed.

I had bought my sister and brother-in-law a brunch meal with 90-minutes of free-flowing Prosecco, Bellinis and mimosas for two back in December 2019 ahead of the full onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic.

They were obviously unable to use the gift as England was plunged into full lockdown in March 2020. I, meanwhile, had completely forgotten about the £37 experience I had booked for them which included a small discount.

But after checking my account several times for the refund, it failed to appear.

As I re-read the refund email, I realised I had been given ‘Groupon Bucks’ to the value of £37 with no explanation about what this was or when it had to be used by.

I contacted Groupon via social media on three separate occasions and sent email inquiries via its website but it failed to respond.

I then thought I’d try my luck via the online chat function and finally my questions were answered.

I was told the credit is available to spend immediately and is valid for 12 months against most purchases on the Groupon site.

However, why wasn’t the cash amount refunded back to my card? Why was I given credit to spend on experiences/events/goods on Groupon amid the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns? And, an important question was whether I could exchange the credit/Bucks for cash.

The Groupon representative confirmed I could exchange the Bucks for a cash refund on to the original payment method and that they would be in touch in 24 hours to confirm.

The next day I received the following email: “I’m very sorry you had this experience. This is definitely not something we ever want our customers to encounter. I’ve issued a full refund to your original form of payment. You’ll receive a separate automated email message to confirm this as well.”

Happy days. But I still think it was a cheeky move to issue Groupon Bucks to spend on site rather than just issue customers with an automatic cash refund.

If you have also been unable to use a gift or experience because of the pandemic, you don’t need to settle for the credit. Contact Groupon to get your cash back.

Is Groupon allowed to do this?

Aman Johal, lawyer and director of consumer action law firm, Your Lawyers, said: “Under normal circumstances, we would expect businesses to provide customers with full refunds for cancellations that are beyond the customer’s control. Ultimately, customers are bound to the terms and conditions set out upon purchase, and these can provide loopholes for companies to avoid full refunds.

“The pandemic has muddied the waters, with more businesses incorporating coronavirus-proof clauses into updated terms and conditions since March 2020. Further, the coronavirus pandemic may meet the criteria in many agreements as a ‘force majeure’. With most hospitality businesses unable to honour prior offers when they are legally compelled to be closed, it is hard to see what else they can do.

“If recompense in the form of something like Groupon Bucks was not in the terms and conditions at the time of purchase, consumers may still be entitled to a full refund. Although we sympathise with the hospitality industry’s struggle, consumers –  who themselves may be experiencing financial hardship arising from the pandemic – should not bear the brunt of the adverse circumstances, and the terms of the contract are always king.

“We always urge consumers to read the terms of conditions of purchases carefully to avoid any confusion.”

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