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Debenhams – elevator going down – what are your consumer rights


Debenhams sign



Debenhams – the department store retailer – faces going into administration for the third time as talks with JD Sports failed yesterday (30 November 2020). After nearly 250 years in business, its doors are set to close for the last time, although it continues to trade while administrators seek to clear stock.

So what are your rights when shopping with Debenhams?

Gift cards

  1. Get them spent! And quickly! Debenhams is currently still trading, so you are able to use them. Once it stops trading it is unlikely that it will accept gift cards. It is also worth remembering that one of the reasons that Debenhams is struggling is the collapse of Arcadia and you may also have a gift card for one of the Arcadia group stores. It, too, is still taking gift cards but both Debenhams and Arcadia could stop taking gift cards at any time.
  2. If you have a gift card or a voucher for any amount over £100 and it was paid for by credit card then you have protection from the credit company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
  3. It is possible that if you paid through your bank on a debit card, you could get your money back through This is a voluntary scheme and you will need to check with your bank.
  4. If a new owner is found for Arcadia or Debehams it will not have to honour the voucher or gift card but it is always worth checking. They may well be of the opinion that if they honour the voucher that you will return and if they don’t you will not go there ever again and tell your friends not to either!
  5. If you have bought your vouchers through a third-party website it is worth contacting them. They do not legally have to refund you the money but they may do so as a goodwill gesture.
  6. If you haven’t spent your gift vouchers in time and the company isn’t honouring vouchers, contact the administration company as soon as possible. You will be added to the creditors list, along with staff wages, the taxman etc., so it is highly unlikely that you will get all your money but you have no chance at all if you don’t register your interest!
  7. Keep hold of your vouchers. Even if the company goes into an administration a buyer may be found later which may honour the vouchers.

Debenhams shop front

Shopping at Debenhams now

  • Your rights remain the same. Currently, Debenhams is trading, so your rights remain the same. If an item has become faulty you are covered by the
  • Consumer Rights Act 2015. Once it stops trading it will be more difficult to get your money back.
  • You have protection from the credit company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Actif you bought the item on a credit card and the item was more than £100.
  • It is possible that if you paid through your bank on a debit card, you could get your money back through This is a voluntary scheme and you will need to check with your bank.
  • The administrators will want to raise as much cash as possible, so will continue to sell goods, where possible. This is where you may find some bargains both in-store and online. If you buy online you should still be able to return items if necessary, within 14 days, under the Cons
    umer Contracts Regulations. 
  • Remember, though, that if any item you buy becomes faulty you may well not be able to return it if no new owner is found for Debenhams! You may be able to try the manufacturer but your contract is still with the retailer.

Help for employees who will lose their jobs

Coronavirus – 4 steps to take if you lose your job




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Coronavirus related cancellation claims and shopping

Refunds during the pandemic

During the current crisis, most businesses are doing the right thing when it comes to refunding consumers affected by cancellations.

For example, I had tickets booked for a charity comedy night full of A-list comedians and waited for news about the event. I was interested to see if they could reschedule (highly unlikely given all the names involved) and whether they would ask if I would like to make a donation to the charity. In fact, I received an email to say they were looking to reschedule a number of events and, soon after, received an email listing all the dates that were cancelled and those that were rescheduled. Ours was, of course, cancelled. The refunding of the card was already underway, according to the email.

However there are a number of companies still not doing the right thing. For example, those which are trying to give credit notes instead of cash refunds.

Whilst even I would say to allow companies a little extra time to give you that refund (and I would normally NEVER say that!) due to the amount of refunds that they are having to be processed, your consumer rights remain the same in all circumstances whether they are COVID-19 related, or not.

The crisis has hit nearly every sector. There is some support for many businesses, so it is not right for the consumer to bankroll these companies and also be out of pocket.

Report businesses acting illegally during the pandemic

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is closely monitoring businesses through this period. It has the power to open a consumer enforcement if it finds strong and compelling evidence that the law might have been broken. It can call on the company to change their behaviour by committing to formal undertakings or promises. If they refuse, then the case can be taken to court. It won’t take on individual cases but it is worth reporting any offending companies to the CMA.

The CMA is also monitoring price hiking (also known as “gouging”) and will similarly tackle companies that are attempting to profit from the current situation.

Unused gift vouchers during Covid

Normally there are restrictions on gift cards. Will your Gift Cards keep on giving? However, many people have not been able to use their gift cards in store while shops are shut. If the gift card could have been used online then you should use it online. You would expect companies to extend the gift card deadline in these cases where the cards can only be used in store because they have not been able to provide normal service. However due to the unprecedented nature of the reason that you have been unable to spend the card it is yet to be tested in court which is, ultimately, the test.


Coronavirus and price hikes

Help with getting the refund you are owed from business

Posts which will help with various scenarios:

What are your consumer rights during a pandemic

Coronavirus and travel – who’s taking advantage? outlines the law and what the different relevant agencies are saying/doing about travel companies and airlines and refunds.

Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained  outlines what your rights are and how to assert them regarding holidays and flights in this country and abroad.

Coronavirus related cancelled and postponed events your rights outlines your rights and how to assert them when events in this country or abroad are cancelled.

Online shopping – know your rights during the pandemic explains your rights and how to assert them when things go wrong with an online shop.

Gym Contracts During COVID : Your Consumer Rights a guest post I wrote for Emma at the Money Whisperer.

Don’t get tied in knots over wedding cancellation some venues are not fully refunding couples, charging them fees, not providing a like-for-like alternative next year etc. Here’s what to do about it!


Coronavirus - how to ensure you gain redress when a venue cancels

Wedding venues and insurance getting refunds

Your consumer rights when shopping in store during a pandemic

Further help with getting redress

Top 20 Tips How to Complain! Use these tips when you complain to be effective! is a site which gives you the contact details for CEOs. The CEO may not respond personally but it does get the matter escalated and you should get a response from one of the executive team.

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo


For more advice, tips and templates for complaining GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!




Stressed out by the situation?

Stressful time? How to reduce stress with a little talked about quick and easy therapy

green background how to assert your legal rights Covid-19 related issuesCOVID-19 scams – How to stay safe a guest post by Paul Newton regarding current Covid-19 related scams.