Almost £100m lost through unused shopping vouchers during lockdown, Which? reveals

An estimated £97.7 million was lost on shopping vouchers that went unused during lockdown, according to new Which? research.

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 – did not receive an extension on their shopping vouchers worth £30 on average, automatically losing all the money they had left. This equates to an estimated £97.7 million 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.

Around two in five (42%) of those aged 35-54 did not receive an extension either, however this figure dropped to just one in five (20%) of those aged 18-35.

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

Many retailers introduced new Covid-19 terms and conditions during lockdown and offered to extend vouchers. 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, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, said:

“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.

Notes to editor

The survey was conducted by Opinium on behalf of Which? between 25th and 28th August 2020. A nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ was surveyed.

Figures based on an estimated 3.1 million UK adults with vouchers worth £31.70 each that were not extended or used during lockdown.

The average amount on all shopping vouchers that expired during lockdown was £45.70.

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