The Scottish National Party’s consumer affairs spokeswoman Patricia Gibson has called for changes to the law to protect those who give and receive gift cards and vouchers at Christmas.
Stores and businesses which put short “use-by” dates on their cards, or hide details about expiry periods, are like “the Grinch who stole Christmas”, she said.
Ms Gibson is calling for new legislation to either ban expiry dates altogether or at least impose a minimum five-year period, along with fairer terms and conditions.
And she said that any cash left unspent when cards and vouchers expire should go to charity and not to retailers’ profits.
The UK Gift Card and Voucher Association estimates the market to be worth around £6 billion a year in the UK, but around £300 million of that is currently going unspent.
Ms Gibson said: “Nobody wants to see the hard-earned cash they spend on presents for friends and family members thrown down the drain but consumers in the UK are currently being short-changed to the tune of millions of pounds every year in lost gift card money.
“Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, retailers are profiting from money for nothing by taking away people’s Christmas and birthday presents when gift cards pass these wholly arbitrary expiry dates. The minimum period and policies for gift cards can vary dramatically from shop to shop, some have very short or hidden expiry periods.
“Many people wind up losing their money because the cards expire, or a firm closes down, and the retailers then take the funds for themselves.
“With families now facing stagnant wages, rising prices, and squeezed living standards under the Tories, it is all the more important that the UK government introduces protections.
“This means either a full ban on gift card expiry dates or, at the very least, a minimum expiry period of five years or more.”