What to do when buying or using a gift voucher

What to do when buying or using a gift voucher

Very often we opt to buy a gift voucher and avoid the hassle of choosing gifts which might be inadequate for the person receiving them. Sometimes we are also the receivers of such vouchers. Whether we are buying or using a gift voucher we have a number of responsibilities which we need to be aware of.

When we are the ones who are buying the gift voucher it is important to keep in mind that there are different types of gift vouchers to choose from. For instance, there are vouchers that can only be used in a specific outlet and others that can be used in a number of shops. The latter obviously offer a wider variety of products which the recipient of the voucher can choose from.

When buying a gift voucher we should also check out any terms and conditions attached to it. We should for instance check if there is an expiry date tied to the voucher. If the voucher expires then we need to make sure that the date is clearly written or printed on the gift voucher.

There are also different ways of how a voucher can be used. For instance, some vouchers have to be used all at once because the voucher does not allow the re-issuing of another voucher or a credit note. Should we be interested in purchasing such vouchers it is advisable not to spend a large sum of money on one voucher but it is better to buy a number of vouchers with different values. There are however other vouchers that allow the user of the voucher to spend less and then another voucher is issued with the difference in price.

Traders may be willing to extend the voucher out of goodwill

When we are the recipients of gift vouchers we must first of all carefully read the conditions on how to make use of the gift voucher. We should be careful not to let a gift voucher expire. If we are not sure if we will manage to use a gift voucher before it expires we should check with the seller if he is willing to extend it before it expires. When asking for an extension, we should not forget that traders are under no legal obligation to do so but may be willing to extend the voucher out of goodwill. If the retailer refuses to extend the expiry date then it is imperative that we use the voucher before it expires or we might lose it altogether.

We must also be careful not to lose gift vouchers as retailers are not legally obliged to replace them. Usually only gift vouchers made out into the consumer’s name and those that are marked ‘not transferable’ can be re-issued. In these cases the trader is likely to have a record of the voucher and may be willing to cancel the original voucher and issue another one.

Gift vouchers should also be used as soon as possible because there is always the risk that the trader that issued the voucher goes out of business. If this happens before we use the voucher, it would be very difficult to recuperate the value of the voucher. We must also not forget that gift vouchers are not cash but they represent goods to the face value of the voucher. Hence gift vouchers cannot be exchanged back for cash.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.


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