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‘Never again’: Customers left fuming after gift card headaches

By Emily Chantiri

September 26, 2023 — 10.22am

While receiving a gift card or voucher as a present is often welcome, consumers are frequently running into roadblocks when attempting to redeem them, such as unnecessary restrictions and confusing terms and conditions.

Sydney resident Georgie Barnes was furious after trying to redeem Qantas gift vouchers her boyfriend gave her on her last birthday.

Sydney resident Georgie Barnes was furious after trying to redeem Qantas gift vouchers her boyfriend gave her on her last birthday.

Sydney resident Georgie Barnes was furious after trying to redeem Qantas gift vouchers her boyfriend gave her on her last birthday.Credit: Louise Kennerley

When the 32-year-old tried to claim the vouchers for an advertised flight, she found she had to pay more for the same flight if she used the voucher.

“I had a ridiculous experience trying to redeem Qantas gift vouchers. Firstly, they make them impossible to use, as you can only book one flight at a time via a specific voucher. Then, once you find your flight, it’s more expensive than if you were to book via the normal platform,” she said.

After spending time on the phone to Qantas, Barnes had no results, saying the process was a “slog” and soured her experience with the airline.

“The voucher should allow you to spend it on the advertised price, not taken to another link where you have to pay more. The gift was a lovely present [but] I’ll never get one again.”

Tatianna Vassilopoulos faced a similar experience attempting to use a nail voucher her parents purchased from Groupon, finding the salon was reluctant to book her in.

“After four months and many attempts to book, I was unable to redeem the voucher, then the owner told me she was no longer accepting Groupon,” she said. In the end, Vassilopoulos says she had a “huge fight” with Groupon to get a refund.

Customer experience adviser Aileen Day said too many programs fall flat on their promise and cause more headaches for customers than they should.

“Businesses must map out their voucher program systematically to ensure their product delivers easy, and are enjoyable to redeem; even go as far as testing out the redemption process,” she says.

Day recommends customers read the fine print.

“If you attempt to redeem a voucher and are faced with unwarranted roadblocks, you have the choice. Stand up for what you believe you are entitled to, as per the voucher terms and conditions; take it higher if necessary, or report the incident to the ACCC for further investigation.”

An ACCC spokesperson said there are a number of requirements under the Australian Consumer Law around the supply of gift cards. In general, gift cards are required to have a minimum three-year expiry period, clearly display the expiry date, and not include any post-supply fees.

If a consumer is unable to resolve an issue with a gift card with a retailer, they should contact their state or territory consumer fair trading agency, which may be able to assist in their dispute, or report their issue to the ACCC.

A NSW Fair Trading spokesperson said most complaints related to gift cards not working come when there are no details of the purchase or expiry date, and misleading promotions.

Consumers are urged to check the expiry date when receiving a gift card, keep the receipt and use the total amount. When buying a card or voucher as a gift, always read the terms and conditions to see if the amount must be redeemed at a specific location or for specific items.

If there is a problem with a gift card or voucher, contact the business in the first instance to resolve the issue. If the matter cannot be resolved, consumers can lodge a complaint with their relevant fair trading body online or over the phone.

Emily Chantiri is a Sydney journalist, bestselling author and a regular contributor to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.