An estimated £97.7m ($125m) was lost in shopping vouchers that went unused during lockdown.
According to new research by Which?, a quarter of the 2000 UK adults polled had a shopping voucher that expired during the period when many shops and businesses were forced to shut.
The average amount on all shopping vouchers that expired during lockdown was £45.70.
According to the Gift Card and Voucher Association, the gift card industry is worth £6bn every year.
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.
Nearly half (49%) of those with a voucher due to expire said it had been extended by the retailer, while 15% said they had to request an extension.
Even though some retailers took action on voucher extensions, more than a third (36%), an estimated 3.1 million, didn’t receive an extension on vouchers worth on average £30.
This equates to an estimated £97.7m in lost credit across the whole of the UK.
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.”
Nearly half (46%) of those aged over 55 claimed they did not receive an extension for shopping vouchers, while around two in five (42%) of those aged 35-54 did not receive an extension either.
This figure dropped to just one in five of those aged 18-35.
One person told Which? they had emailed a retailer regarding vouchers that were due to expire during lockdown, and received a swift response extending the voucher, while another said they were left “disappointed” when they contacted the company who 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.
Anyone considering buying shopping vouchers should be wary, as coronavirus has had a severe financial impact on many retailers – with some big names disappearing from the high street altogether.
The possibility of further coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the near future could also make it difficult to spend vouchers.