Has your local shopping centre recently gone bust? Your favourite brand unfortunately closed down due to Coronavirus? Are you now left with a load of gift cards and gift vouchers loaded with credit that you don’t know what to do with? Don’t panic or get rid just yet!
Did you know that the UK’s gift card market, according to the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, was worth almost an astonishing £7billion in 2019 and has been booming year on year ever since?
With more people dabbling in the convenience of giving gift cards and your likelihood of receiving them more probable, it’s becoming increasingly important that you know your rights as a consumer and gifter alike.
So whether you’re looking to purchase gift cards and vouchers as an upcoming gift for a loved one, have received one yourself, or have found one stashed away in your wallet that you’d forgotten about, this article will explain and help you learn about your consumer rights when it comes to gift cards.
Are you the gifter or giftee?
First up, you’ll want to determine where the gift card actually came from, as believe it or not, this will affect your rights and entitlement.
You may think that the person who holds the card is the person who ultimately holds all of the rights, however it is actually the gifter/ purchaser who is bound by the card’s terms. This means that if there is a problem with your gift card that it is the responsibility of the purchaser to look into it.
Alternatively received a gift card from your employer as a bonus or reward? How about a free voucher from a business or brand as a thank you or as an incentive to keep spending?
It's becoming increasingly popular for bosses and brands to reward employees and customers through the means of cards and vouchers.
The UK Gift card and Voucher Association also found that of the £7bn size of the overall market, 67% of the market value comes from customer expenditure, directly from retailers and gift card issuers or work programmes.
If you’re having difficulty with your cards or vouchers in this case, you would have to contact the company who gave you it.
What are my rights when purchasing a gift card
Whether you’re gifting granny some credit to spend at M&S for her birthday, or fancy treating mum to a pamper weekend away at a posh hotel, when you purchase your gift card you can expect and should be notified of any terms and conditions before or at the point of purchase by the card issuer.
We’ve all done it. Skipping over the terms and conditions because they’re wordy and seem a snore fest, but when it comes to buying gift cards it really is in your best interests that you do as you will be bound by these post purchase.
The T&Cs are usually situated on the back of your card or voucher in the envelope/ slip it sits in. If the terms were not pointed out or made clear to you at point of purchase because it was for example enclosed in packaging or the screen when ordering online did not display it, you could argue that they were not disclosed to you, that it was purchased in good faith and that you have been misled.
It is determined that to meet the requirements of good faith, the terms must be presented to the purchaser clearly, negotiated, and entered into in a fair and open manner.
This Consumer Rights Act legislation from GOV.UK helps to detail what responsibility brands have to good contracts and what to do if they are not met.
Gift card not arrived in time?
There’s nothing worse than not receiving a gift in time for the event, that’s why many of us opt for gift cards and vouchers in the first place. They’re easy, convenient and you can buy and receive them fast. But what if your cards and vouchers aren’t received in time?
You are right to be able to expect your goods to be delivered within the timeline that is first stated when the order is made, but if no date was given prior to purchase then the gift card company must deliver your cards or vouchers within 30 days of your order being made.
If you do not receive your goods within that one month timeframe you will be entitled to a full refund based on the fact they have failed to deliver. It is advised that you raise the issue with the retailer as soon as you can.
Been charged unforseen delivery costs for your cards/ vouchers? Any costs such as this should also be communicated at the point of purchase giving you the right to complain if this is not the case.
Gift card expiry and terms
Did you completely forget about that gift card your aunty sent you that’s been sitting in your purse for months on end? Wondering if you’ll still be able to spend it?
Gift cards do have an eventual expiry date, so the fact that you forgot about it or haven't spent a penny of it won’t work as much of a valid argument if you’re out of time.
Gift card date ranges can be anywhere from a specific date to a matter of months. Anywhere from three months to two years can be expected when purchasing a card or voucher and the brand is well within their rights to stand by them as long as the purchaser was aware when placing the order.
Most cards and vouchers can vary in their validity and there are no laws in how long the date range of usage should be. However if you buy a card that turns out to have a very short expiry time, you could argue with the vendor that the expiry date is unfair, but it’s quite rare that they would change their terms.
With that said, if you are gifting a card, it is wise for you as the gifter to check how far away the expiration date is and inform the giftee of how long they have to use their credit before losing it. It's also a good idea to mention those all important T&Cs at the same time too.
If you are the lucky recipient of a gift card, don’t simply rely on the gifter to remember the time frame in which to use it. Check out the expiration date as soon as you receive your card or voucher and make a note of it so you don’t forget and spend it as soon as possible incase you forget about the card or lose it at a later date.
Received an exciting voucher for a thrilling or chilled out experience day? It’s imperative that you check out whether you need to book and go on the experience day before the expiry date stated or whether you simply need to book your trip before the expiry.
This information can ordinarily be found on the voucher company’s website but if you’re unable to find the information, a simple call to the brands customer services is a sure fire way to find out! In some cases if this was not stated or hasn’t been relayed to you, you may be able to extend the expiry date but it will likely come with a fee.
You are within your rights to contest this fee however the gift card buyer would have to be able to prove that this information was not presented to them on purchase.
What to do about a damaged gift card or voucher?
Split water all over your voucher or accidentally snapped your gift card? You can expect your gift to be refused when you reach the till if there is significant damage to any unique numbers, stickers or “scratch offs”.
If this is the case and your card or voucher seems a bit worse for wear, we would suggest that you get in touch with the supplier to see if they would be able to send a replacement so you don’t lose out.
What do I do if my gift card is lost or stolen?
There’s nothing worse than putting a gift card “in a safe place” then realising that you’ve forgotten where that safe place is or getting your purse stolen and losing them that way. So what do you do if it’s lost and never to be seen again?
It’s always a good idea to keep your receipt, advisably separate from your cards and vouchers somewhere else in your home, so you have proof of purchase and ID. Of course the loss is no fault of the gifting company, so they are not obliged to replace it but may do it as an act of goodwill when hearing your situation.
The retailer will need your receipt or proof of purchase in order to determine that the original purchase was legitimate. A unique gift card number and the date of purchase can really come in handy too in helping the vendor to clarify and rectify the situation, establishing if you’re eligible for a new card.
Although ordinarily this decision depends on the retailers terms and conditions given when the card or voucher was purchased. In many respects gifting tenders are treated similarly to cash in that if you lose it it can’t be replaced.
Gift vouchers are sometimes viewed a little differently. Sometimes the company will reissue vouchers for free via email or the post in return for a small fee.
Remember some companies will only deal with the gifter rather than the giftee, so you may have to get in touch with the purchaser and ask them to deal with it on your behalf, which could be a little annoying but may save you losing out on your gift card credit.
Got a gift card you don’t want or won’t use and want an exchange?
Received a gift voucher you know you’re not going to spend and are looking to exchange it for another brand or a cash alternative?
The first thing you’ll want to do is check the terms and conditions on your voucher or card which are likely to detail your specific rights. If not, as previously mentioned, the gift card retailers site may go into more detail.
It is worth noting that it is highly unlikely that companies will exchange your voucher for cash.
If it’s bought from a vendor who specialises specifically in vouchers for experiences, they may be more likely to allow you to switch your gift for an alternative experience than you would be when trying to switch a specific brand.
Brand or company gone bust?
You may think that it’s unlikely that retailers will go bust when you purchase or receive your gift cards but it happens more than you’d think. 2020’s Coronavirus pandemic illustrates perfectly how quickly the highstreet and online retail situation can change.
So what do you do if the brand you have credit for no longer exists?
Many administrators can stop accepting gift cards, removing them of their worth and counting them as debts owed by the retailer, as they try to claim back finances making you a creditor too.
Unfortunately for you this does mean that you will be pushed to the bottom of the pile when it comes to giving payouts. Sadly in this case it often means that you as the gifter or giftee are likely to lose some money as you aren't likely to receive a full refund.
You could try and make a claim to the administrators themselves along with voucher purchase proof to see if there is anything they will personally do to rectify the situation.
Don't be too hasty on getting rid of your cards and vouchers though! Step away from the bin. Some administrators do decide to honour their customers credit when companies are later bought out. You may receive a replacement card or an updated egift card alternatively.
Also, don't simply assume because a company has gone bust that they are no longer accepting gift cards. Pop along to your local retailer, call the store or customer services to double check. Some administrators and businesses when buying out a company will surprise you and will honour your credit.
Though sometimes new management see no obligation towards honouring previous credit and see the previous owners debts as their own responsibility, in which case you likely won’t be seeing your credit again.
The best way around losing your credit is to spend it as soon as you possibly can on receipt of your gift card and if you hear that a retailer is going into administration, of which you hold gift cards for, head straight to your local branch to get them spent.
If you bought your gift cards or vouchers through a third-party website, you can contact them to ask for a refund. Though the gifter may not be entitled to a refund, the third-party may honour it to keep up customer loyalty.
If the single value of the card or voucher was over £100, you could also use Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act as an argument to get your money back. It states that credit card companies are just as liable as retailers for goods supplied, meaning they are equally obliged to deliver on their promises.
Know the terms and conditions before you buy
Remember, one of the most important elements to consider and take notice of when purchasing or receiving gift cards is the terms and conditions. They are your fountain for information, an agreement of your rights and your ammunition to fight back.
You have every right to view and be presented with clear terms before purchasing any gift card or voucher from both retailers and third parties.
If you are purchasing a gift card in person, you will usually be able to find the terms printed on the back of the card or voucher, on the cards packaging or slip. If you are unable to find them, seek out a member of staff to show you before you buy.
When purchasing vouchers or cards online, the T&Cs should be displayed alongside the card that you are viewing to purchase, at the checkout before payment or via a terms and conditions page. If you can't find them it’s always wise to get in contact with the gifting company to make sure the terms are clear and understood prior to your commitment to buying.
Finding the FAQ section of a gifting site is also a great idea. It gives you an overview of other peoples queries and issues and may answer your own questions too!
Don't forget when you do find the terms to look at the expiry date, redemption, what the card includes, validity, refund policy, and what happens if it’s lost or stolen.
Now you’re equipped with this fountain of gifting knowledge, you can know your own rights and enjoy gifting and receiving vouchers and cards more freely!