The demise of HMV has once again left consumers out of pocket as they find their vouchers and gift cards have become worthless overnight.
It is not usual for administrators to honour gift vouchers and they do not normally give refunds for them either.
But experts have started to question why consumers have no rights in this area, and say that urgent change is needed as more former heavyweights of the high street collapse.
Dean Dunham, the founder of youandyourrights.co.uk, said: “We’ve got to see some changes in this area. It’s almost theft.
“A gift voucher should be as good as a banker’s draft. You should be guaranteed that you’ll either be able to redeem it or get your money back.
“We’ve known for some time what happens when these companies go under and nothing’s been done to protect consumers.”
He added: “Firstly there needs to be some consumer power. Consumers should stop buying gift vouchers. But there needs to be an urgent change to the law. People suffer and it shouldn’t happen.”
He also urged consumers to fight administrator Deloitte’s decision not to honour vouchers and gift cards.
“When Comet went in to administration, the first thing they said was that they wouldn’t honour vouchers. There was a massive customer backlash and they changed their minds.
“I would urge people with HMV vouchers to kick up a fuss. They may get a reversal.”
He added: “We live in a country where people don’t complain, mainly because they don’t know their rights. People have got to complain more.”
A Which? spokeswoman said: “With the increasing number of high street retailers going bust, consumers need to be aware of their rights, particularly regarding warranties and gift vouchers.
“If a store goes into administration it may refuse to accept gift vouchers, though this situation may change. If they do refuse and you need to make a claim, write to the administrators with proof of your vouchers. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that you will get the full value back, and a claim could take some time for the administrators to process.
“If you have bought an extended warranty, check the small print carefully. Often it’s provided by a third party in which case you shouldn’t be affected. If the cover was provided by a company that has ceased to trade then you would lose the benefit.
“It is also worth remembering that if you’ve bought items costing more than £100 on a credit card and the supplier goes bust, you can claim a refund by writing to the credit company with details of your claim.”
Which? also called for a review of the rules surrounding gift vouchers and insolvency.
The consumer watchdog’s executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “While many groups can lose out when a company goes into administration, it is outrageous that consumers, once again, are left out of pocket when a retailer refuses to honour gift vouchers.
“We want the rules on gift vouchers and insolvency to be reviewed to ensure consumers are adequately protected in cases like this.”
Clare Francis, personal finance spokeswoman at MoneySupermarket.com, said: “As the recent collapse of Jessops and Comet has highlighted, buying gift vouchers for a firm that then goes bust could leave you in a tricky situation. Firms often continue trading even though they’re insolvent as the administrators seek to shift unsold stock and it is at their discretion as to whether or not gift vouchers are still accepted.
“HMV has already announced that it will cease accepting and issuing gift vouchers, leaving it very unlikely that you will get any money back. Instead, you will be added to the long list of creditors and given the values involved you’re not likely to be near the top of that list.
“If HMV were to cease trading, and your voucher is worth £100 or more and was paid for using a credit card there is a chance that they may be able to get the money back from the credit card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
“However, there is no guarantee as this is a grey area of the law because strictly speaking you have received the goods you paid for, i.e. the voucher. It’s worth a try though as it doesn’t cost anything to make such a claim.”