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HMV administration Q&A: gift card, refund and job rights

Guy Anker Managing Editor
Published 15 January 2013
Last updated 4 Feb 2013

Music giant HMV is the latest high street store to go into administration. This is a full Q&A, which includes whether gift vouchers or returns will be accepted, and the rights of its staff.

Q. What has happened?

HMV shares were suspended on 15 January and accountancy firm Deloitte was appointed administrator that day after ailing HMV hit the financial wall.

However, restructuring firm Hilco, backed by the music industry, bought HMV's debt on 22 January. The relationship is complicated: Hilco has put itself in line to take control of the business, though it is not yet the new owner. Deloitte, as administrator, still makes the key decisions.

See this Sky News article for more on the buyout.

Q. Is the store still trading?

For now, all HMV's 223 outlets are trading, but its website has been suspended, though Deloitte plans to resume online sales soon.

The HMV group also includes music retailer Fopp, so everything in the article that applies to HMV applies to Fopp.

Section 1: Gift voucher rights

Q. Will gift vouchers be accepted?

They will be if redeemable in-store, but not if they are an e-voucher for the website.

Deloitte announced on Monday 21 January that gift cards would be accepted in stores from Tuesday 22 January. This is a U-turn from the original policy when HMV first went into administration. Back then, Deloitte said customers would be unable to redeem gift cards and vouchers.

However, go quickly as the uncertainty surrounding HMV means its stores could close at any point.

E-vouchers will only become re-activated when HMV's website is back up and running, which Deloitte is working on.

Q. Are other places accepting HMV vouchers?

Asda, Boots and Tesco have said that for a limited time HMV vouchers bought from them can be exchanged at face value for the retailers' own gift cards. See the Asda, Boots and Tesco to accept HMV vouchers MSE News story for more information.

We've also seen some other totally unrelated outlets saying they will accept HMV vouchers as a goodwill gesture for money off their products or freebies.

The online gift store Musicgiftsuk.com, a supplier of HMV, says it will accept half the face value of vouchers if you buy one of its products, and send the voucher in by the end of the month.

We've also seen two local restaurants tweet special offers: Big Easy in Chelsea, London, says those with a voucher will get a free margarita; while Oldfields in Durham will give 50% off the bill.

Of course, by parting with your vouchers you won't be able to use them at HMV.

Most of the remaining information on gift vouchers is no longer applicable for now, as it was written when HMV did not accept them, click here for the original content. It may become relevant again if HMV stops accepting vouchers or the business is closed down.

Q. How is this legal?

When a company is in administration, it no longer exists in its previous form. So legally, it does not have to fulfil its promises.

A gift card is simply a promise it will let you spend a certain amount in its store or on its website. So under insolvency law, it is up to the administrator whether to accept vouchers.

The administrator's job is to try to squeeze every last penny out of a company to pay those who are owed money. Often creditors only get a small percentage, if anything of what's owed.

Martin Lewis adds: "Those who have gift cards are now effectively in that list of people the firm owes money to, but sadly are at the bottom of the pile. So while it is possible if the administrators get money, it could give a few pence per pound back, it's unlikely.

"More plausible is if the administrator is trying to protect the brand name of HMV to try to sell on as an asset, after deliberation it could decide to honour or partially-honour vouchers at some stage in future to keep the goodwill."

Q. I bought gift vouchers on a credit card. Can I claim from my card firm?

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, card firms are jointly liable with a retailer if something goes wrong, if the item you bought cost over £100.

So if your item isn't delivered, you should be able to claim this way. But this rule is largely untested when it comes to vouchers.

The Office of Fair Trading, which polices this rule, says you may get your money back.

We would strongly suggest that if you did buy expensive goods over £100, you try this route see our Section 75 Refunds guide for full help on how to do this. Though if it fails or you're not eligible, see the question below.

Q. I bought gift vouchers on a debit card, on credit for less than £100, or Section 75 didn't work. Can I claim from my card firm?

There is a little-known promise called 'chargeback' that if you claim within 120 days from your card provider, Visa, Mastercard and American Express may give you your money back if something goes wrong.

Unlike Section 75, these are customer service promises, not a legal requirement, so there is no guarantee this will work, but it's worth a try.

Martin Lewis comments: "In past administrations, we've found suggesting people try a chargeback to be one of the most successful methods.

"In some ways because it's not a legal promise, there is more flexibility. The key here, though, is speed. You must do a chargeback within 120 days of making a purchase, so if you've got vouchers recently, go quickly."

More help on how to do this in our Chargeback guide.

Q. I bought gift vouchers by cash or cheque, or I can't claim from my card firm. What can I do?

If not covered under Section 75 or chargeback (explained above), you'll have to try to claim the cash from the administrator by becoming what is called an 'unsecured creditor'.

Here, you are one of the many different people or companies on the administrator's list of being owed money to. This also includes suppliers, landlords and staff (more on job rights later).

But don't get your hopes up of getting your money back for gift cards via this method.

Administrators try to squeeze every last penny out of a company to pay those owed, and often creditors only get a small percentage, if anything at all. What's more, gift card owners are likely to be at the bottom of the queue.

Q. If nothing above works, is there any hope?

Martin Lewis says: "For planning's sake, assume gift vouchers will never be valid and therefore pursue avenues such as chargeback and Section 75 to get money back.

"Yet there is a slim chance HMV's administrators will change their mind on gift cards, as happened with Comet.

"Even if that doesn't happen, there's also a reasonable chance that if a slimmed-down HMV surfaces, as many predict, that group will accept the gift vouchers in some form.

"What we've seen in the past in similar cases, such as with Jane Norman, is as a goodwill gesture, gift cards can be redeemed, but with conditions. For example, it could be put towards 50% of your spend, or it could count as a half price discount.

"Therefore, the golden rule here is don't bin them. If nothing else, put them in a drawer and cross your fingers."

Q. Will HMV gift vouchers be accepted at Waterstones?

Some users have asked whether HMV gift cards can be used at book store Waterstones, which HMV used to own.

These are now separate companies so more recent HMV vouchers couldn't be used there even before HMV hit the financial wall.

Some older vouchers that say Waterstones on the back were valid at the book store before today, if still in date, but not any more.

Q. Is it against the law to just walk out with goods to the value of my gift vouchers?

We're surprised how many have asked us this, but yes, it is theft, a criminal offence and you can be arrested.

Like everyone else HMV owes money to, you're now a creditor and its assets (which includes its stock) need to be distributed in a set way by law.

Section 2: Returns, orders and warranties

Q. Can I take faulty items back?

Deloitte confirmed on 4 February that HMV is not accepting returns for items bought before 5pm on Tuesday 15 January, when HMV went into administration, regardless of the reason.

For goods bought after 5pm on 15 January, you can take them back within two weeks of purchase for an exchange if the item is in perfect condition, or for a refund if faulty.

Normally, you have a right to return faulty items (you don't have a legal right if you change your mind, but some stores accept returns or exchanges in these cases out of goodwill) but once a company is in administration, you join the queue to get money back, like everyone else owed.

If the item is under warranty, you can ask the manufacturer to fix or replace it, or claim via your card company (see below).

If all else fails, you will need to make a claim to the administrators for your money, but be warned, it is highly unlikely you will get all your money back. See the Deloitte Q&A to make a claim.

Q. I bought the goods on plastic, does that give me any better rights if they're faulty?

Here your rights are pretty clear, especially if it cost over £100 and you paid any of it on a credit card.

Martin Lewis explains: "Under the Consumer Credit Act, card companies are jointly liable with a retailer if something goes wrong if the item was over £100. This literally means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer.

"So you have a choice whether to go to the store or the card company. In this case, when the store is in trouble, you should go direct to the card company.

"Therefore if goods are faulty and you complain immediately to the card company, you are due a full refund. If it's later, expect an exchange or replacement, or a cash value equivalent to that."

For help on claiming, see our Section 75 Refunds guide, or for the definition of "faulty" see the Consumer Rights guide.

If you bought goods on a debit card, or goods under £100 on a credit card, you may still be able to claim for faulty goods under the Visa, Mastercard or American Express chargeback schemes, though this only applies within the first 120 days of buying the goods.

Unlike Section 75, this is not a legal requirement, but it's worth a try.

Q. Will unfulfilled orders be delivered?

Deloitte confirmed on 4 February that undelivered items paid for in-store before 15 January will be delivered, if in stock, while undelivered items bought online should be delivered "shortly".

Pre-orders, or any other orders where the money has not left the customer's bank account, have been cancelled. For more information see the HMV administration latest MSE News story.

Q. Can I get my money back for undelivered orders?

If deliveries never come, you should be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you paid by credit card and the item cost more than £100.

If you paid by credit card for goods under £100, or on a debit card, you may be able to claim via the Visa, Mastercard or American Express chargeback schemes. However, these are customer service promises, not legal rights.

Q. Will warranties be honoured?

If you have bought an extended warranty, this is an insurance contract with an insurance company so it should still be valid anyway.

If you're unsure, if the contract says it's "regulated by the Financial Services Authority", it's probably an insurance contract.

If a customer purchased an extended warranty before 5pm on 15 January 2013, to the value of £150 or more, it was provided by Allianz insurance. Therefore, it should be valid as normal. To make a claim, contact Allianz.

If it is for less than £150, it was provided by HMV and is no longer valid.

Q. Will HMV's Pure loyalty points be honoured?

The rewards scheme (including, but not limited to, the issue and redemption of Pure points) is currently under review and is suspended until further notice. As a result, no Pure points can be earned or redeemed at this time.

Section 3: Jobs outlook and rights

Q. What happens to staff?

We don't know what will happen to HMV over the coming months, but Hilco buying its debts and taking effective control gives a lifeline to HMV's 4,000+ employees.

It also means it is more likely the chain will remain on the high street.

If any staff are made redundant, they have statutory rights to redundancy pay and cash for unused holidays — this is met by the Government if HMV itself can't pay.

If your job is at risk, or you are made redundant, read our Redundancy Guide for your rights.

Additional reporting by Helen Knapman.

If your question is not answered in full, or at all, please ask it in the forum discussion and we'll try to update.

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