Gift vouchers have reached £5 billion a year and stores are said to be creaming off as much as £300 million in pure profit every year on cards that are not cashed in. This over and above the profit they make on sales when cards are used within the date. James Daley of the consumer website Fairer Finance say stores are counting on people missing the deadline. The deadline may be missed for a variety of reasons too numerous to detail here. This resolution came about following someone one of our members’ knew, who received a £250 hotel voucher as a retirement gift, it was a plastic card inside the greeting card. Upon trying to book the break months later it transpired the card was only valid for 12 months and had already expired. A gift card recipient does not always know when the card was purchased it could have been well in advance. One of the reasons given for a deadline is that the store cannot balance their books when they receive cash for vouchers which may not be redeemed for years to come. With modern computerisation this should be possible. You sell £1000 worth of vouchers £500 are redeemed that year, you then know there are £500 worth of liabilities to carry over.
According to our research in July 2015 separate moves were made by Governments in Ireland and the UK to strengthen consumer protection around the operation of gift cards. While in Ireland this has concentrated on banning the use of expiry dates, in the UK the Law Commission has focused on another albeit worthy area – consumer repayments in the event of insolvency. Obviously there are several advantages of selling gifts cards from the retailer’s point of view, and of course many people like to give them as gifts, but the question has to be asked, why are there expiry dates on vouchers? Why can they not remain valid until spent? The answer – because £300 million profit can be made EVERY YEAR by doing so. This should not be allowed by law.
Reply from:- Margot James M.P. – Minister for Small Business Consumers & Corporate Responsibility
Broadly speaking, companies are free to offer whatever contractual terms and conditions they wish for their products and services, including the validity period for pre-paid vouchers or cards. There are several reasons why businesses may decide to include expiry dates on gift vouchers, especially on these vouchers for events or services which might increase significantly in price over a period of time, not necessarily in keeping with inflation. However, the Government has been working closely with the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA) to encourage businesses to use expiry dates of at least two years and have made it clear they need to be transparent about the terms and conditions offered to consumers. Most UKGCVA members (and many other businesses) exceed this minimum either by offering longer periods of time or by reconfiguring the two year period to run from the last date of the last transaction. In the latter case, it is therefore possible to keep a gift card live indefinitely. Finally we would urge consumers to look carefully at the terms and conditions on their gift and if it is not clear how long it is valid for, they should contact the retailer who issued the card so they do not miss out on the gift. Many retailers do allow customers to extend the validity of the gift card after expiry.