SHOPPERS lost almost £100million in unused vouchers as stores closed during coronavirus lockdown, according to new Which? research.
The consumer champion has found that a quarter of UK adults had a shopping voucher worth £45 on average that expired during the period.
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Non-essential retailers were forced to shut in March due to Covid-19, and homeware stores then reopened in May followed by the rest in June.
Based on a survey of 2,000 people, Which? found that 49% of shoppers with a voucher expiring during this period had it automatically extended by the retailer.
While one in seven (15%) said they had to request an extension.
Just over a third (36%) – which could equate to an estimated 3.1million people – didn't receive an extension on their vouchers worth £31.70 on average, meaning they lost the money they had left.
This equates to £97.7million lost across the whole of the UK, Which? said.
How to get your voucher extended
WE explain what to do if you’ve missed out on cash by not using a voucher before its expiry date.
Which? is advising anyone who had a voucher that expired during lockdown to contact the company and ask for an extension.
Many retailers have been willing to extend their voucher expiry policies due to the coronavirus crisis, so the date on your gift card isn’t necessarily final.
It may not always work though, as retailers don't have a legal requirement to extend vouchers and can stick with the original expiry date.
But it's worth getting in touch if you haven’t heard from them already.
Nearly half (46%) of those who didn't get their vouchers extended were aged over 55.
According to the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, the gift card industry is worth £6billion every year.
Which? said 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, it added.
One person told Which? that a company had told them "hard luck, basically".
If your voucher has expired during lockdown, we explain what to do above.
Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: "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."
In May, Tesco extended Clubcard points after shoppers feared they’d expire before they could use them due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Aldi recently launched online gift vouchers for the first time so you can buy groceries for friends and family during lockdown.
If you had a birthday in lockdown, we explain how to claim a free treat from Greggs, Pizza Express and Build-A-Bear.
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