Voucher websites – know your rights

(24/09/14) At least six million consumers receive discount voucher emails every week in the UK, so there are lots of opportunities for us to buy discounted products or services.

Sale Sign

Elle contacted us this week to say she had bought a voucher from Wowcher and is trying to get the item she bought the voucher for – a tablet computer – for £40. The company who is meant to supply the tablet is not responding, so what can she do?

How voucher websites work

Most voucher websites are a modern version of group discounts. The voucher website brings a group of people together and, by collective purchasing, allows individuals to buy goods or services at a discounted price. This means, like with an auction, that there will be a period of time while the offer remains open - you can only claim the product or service after that point.

Exaggerated discounts

Voucher websites have come in for a lot of criticism in the past few years for exaggerating the size of discounts available on vouchers. If you feel that the discount you received on the product or service was less impressive than advertised, you should take the issue up with the voucher company immediately.

Voucher companies often shout loudest about the best discount that you could receive (for example the rate you’d get by buying the most expensive items n a menu at a restaurant). However, if you feel that it is not possible to achieve the discount promoted to you, then you should take the issue up with the voucher website and explain that you feel you have been mis-sold.

The Sales and Goods Act 1979 says products must be as described, and therefore it is reasonable to claim that you have been sold something that has been mis-described.

Company not replying 

If the company that is meant to provide the product or service is not replying to your request, then this becomes rapidly annoying. The voucher website has provided you a voucher that is convertible with the product/service provider.

But… the demand that the voucher websites can create means that companies sometimes cannot keep up with the demand created. There is an example of a small cupcake company that received 750,000 orders from a voucher website over the space of a week.

You should initially contact the firm that is meant to be providing the goods and request that they provide the products/services. If they are not replying, then your next course of action is to take the issue up with the voucher website.

Your rights with the voucher are the same as if you buy goods online. Therefore you have 14 days after you receive the voucher to ask for a full refund.

The issue with the vouchers is that you may not have spent the voucher within these tight timeframes. Reputable voucher websites will offer a longer refund period to take this into account.

Reporting a problem

If you experience a problem, report it to the voucher website immediately, especially if it is for a product - you want to ensure they are also aware of the problem.

If the company providing the product cannot resolve the issue, then you should ask for a refund from the voucher company. If they are not forthcoming, you can consider the following:

Cancel the transaction   

If you have used a credit card, then under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act the credit card company shares equal liability with the voucher company for the issue. If the voucher cost more than £100 and less than £30,000, then you can get the credit card company to refund you.

The alternative for debit card payments is to have the transaction reversed. This is done via your bank. Although there is no obligation in law for this, if the product has not been delivered this is a reasonable argument to have the transaction reversed.

Issue with the quality of a service  If you experience issues with the quality of service from the company, then you should raise the issue with the company immediately. Your contract is with the company providing the service, and under the Sales of Goods Act, this must be of reasonable quality, as described and fit for purpose.

For services you buy vouchers for, you should expect these to be fit for purpose. If they don’t come up to scratch, you can ask for a refund from the provider and, if the company does not respond, you can go back to the voucher website, as any poor service damages their reputation and it is in their interest to resolve the issue.

Top tips

If you are buying vouchers from a voucher website, remember these top tips:

• Returns: ensure you can return the voucher if you cannot get hold of the trader. The longer the return period the better - you should ensure that your refund period is at least a month
• Purchase: purchase the voucher using a credit card if you can, as then you can also claim a refund through your credit card if there is an issue.
• Convert: convert your voucher to the product as soon as possible.
• Issue: if there is an issue, report your problem to the voucher website as soon as possible and ensure you keep a record of all your communications.

Next time:

Universities and your rights

For a simple, easy way to complain about more than 1,500 companies across 60 services, go to www.resolver.co.uk or download the iPhone app. If you have a case and need some advice on how to complain, contact james@resolver.co.uk

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