Adults across the UK have amassed a mountain of unused shopping vouchers during the lockdown, a survey suggests.
Consumer group Which? estimates that nearly £100 million could have been lost on vouchers which were left unspent as shops’ doors were closed.
It found a quarter (25%) of people had a shopping voucher – worth £45.70 on average – that expired during the period when many shops and businesses were forced to close.
But nearly 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.
Just over a third (36%) – which could equate to an estimated 3.1 million people – did not receive an extension on their shopping vouchers worth £31.70 on average, automatically losing the money they had left.
This equates to around £98 million lost across the whole of the UK.
Nearly half (46%) of those who had not had an extension on their vouchers were aged over 55.
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”.
Which? is advising anyone who had a voucher that expired during lockdown to contact the company to try and get an extension.
It said anyone considering buying shopping vouchers should be wary, as coronavirus has had a severe financial impact on many retailers. The possibility of further coronavirus lockdown restrictions 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.”
Some 2,000 people were surveyed across the UK in August.