Questions of Cash: They told me my vouchers had expired. It drove me to distraction


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The Independent Online

Q. I bought 20 hours of vouchers for driving lessons from 17 months ago. I was only able to use eight at the time. I am now trying to book the 12 hours remaining, but the company says the vouchers were valid for one year, so I can no longer use them.

I was not aware of the expiry date as this is not on the printed voucher. The only way to find out is by reading the terms and conditions on the website. I have been offered just a one-hour lesson "as a complimentary gesture". Is this legal? I have about £240 of unused vouchers. CR, London.

A. We had difficulty communicating with Calls went to voicemail and were not answered, while emails did not receive a reply. Eventually we obtained both an email and phone reply; neither satisfied us.

A representative of told us: "On the website it states the expiry date and also in the terms and conditions. If the vouchers are a present, it states the expiry date in the letter to the person receiving the vouchers. The expiry date is one year from purchase. If we are advised before the end of the year that the vouchers are unused, we will come to an accommodation."

She added by email: "The one-year expiry date is clearly stated on our website, both as part of the product description and in our terms and conditions. Furthermore, customers are asked to tick a box to confirm that they have read the terms and conditions before the transaction is completed. We therefore believe that we have acted appropriately."

We asked Citizens Advice for its legal opinion. Pol Callaghan responded for the charity: "There is no requirement for an expiry date to be printed on a voucher. But consumer law says that a retailer cannot enforce terms that are unfair and create a significant consumer detriment. What this means will vary on the facts of each case. But a retailer should ensure all relevant terms and conditions are clear to the consumer before they enter into a contract. It may not be sufficient for a retailer to rely on terms and conditions that, while technically available to the consumer (eg, on a website), would rely on the consumer carrying out their own investigations in order to establish significant terms.

Put simply, the voucher seller should be clear and up front about all significant terms before the sale is made.

If the purchaser believes this was not the case, she can take a small claims action against the company, where the court will decide if the actions of the seller were sufficient. If considering such action, she should seek further guidance from Citizens Advice or another independent source of advice."

We suggested to that as we had received legal advice suggesting it was in the wrong, it should honour the vouchers or provide a refund. It did not reply, despite a reminder. We suggest that you file a claim through the small claims court, taking up Citizens Advice's offer of assistance.

Q. My wife has had an account with Vodafone for more than four years, with two numbers on her account – one of which she used, the other I used.

We decided to transfer my number to an account in my name. Vodafone ran a credit check and said it would be transferred within 12 hours.

My wife had paid £63.50 in advance for the line rental. But when my first bill came, it included line rental for nine days that she had already paid for. I phoned Vodafone, which said that as this was a new account, I had to start paying from it, even if this overlapped with the previous account owner's billing cycle. AN, London.

A. Vodafone accepts that line rental for £18.50 was paid for by your wife and yourself. It says this will be automatically refunded when your wife receives the final bill for your phone number.

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