The global pandemic, COVID-19, has disrupted almost every area of our lives in some way. In addition to obvious disruption to our daily routines like meeting friends, working from the office or popping to the shops, it’s also had a more long-lasting impact on personal finances for many. And it’s not just job losses and pay cuts that are causing issues – being unable to obtain refunds is leaving many Brits out of pocket.

New research commissioned by Visa reveals a sharp increase in the number of people unable to access returns or refunds for items bought during lockdown, with one in ten (11%) shoppers who requested a refund still waiting for, or denied access, to a refund or voucher. These items, coined “UnRefundables” have left concerned shoppers out of pocket.

The research reveals return and refund requests have increased by 16% since the start of the pandemic, as more than two fifths (41%) of shoppers tried to return and refund items, services or events.  Almost half (49%) of people who experienced refund issues didn’t get to use their purchase – receiving faulty or incorrect goods, items not arriving, products not being as advertised, being charged multiple times or billed the incorrect amount, or a purchase that wasn’t authorized.


The research revealed that frustrations regarding refunds could have knock-on effects for British businesses, with over a third (36%) shoppers saying they have avoided making big purchases due to fears their money would not be returned and a quarter (28%) are more worried about securing a refund since the pandemic started.

Despite now being able to travel abroad and within the UK, there is increased concern amongst consumers making travel related purchases. In fact, one in three (34%) respondents say they are worried about a travel booking being refunded due to a local lockdown or “second peak” of the virus.

This follows a big increase in people trying to get refunds on flights and hotel bookings, with a fifth (22%) saying they have had more difficulties trying to get money back on cancelled holidays and events. 


Over two fifths (43%) have been deterred from requesting a refund for an item, service or event at all – citing confusion about the returns process (15%), lack of time for the process (10%), the return window (also 10%), as well as no access to a printer for return labels (8%) as key pain points. Worryingly, one in 10 (10%) were not able to contact the company to pursue a refund. 

The refund wait time has also increased notably during lockdown, with 12% saying it took over a month to get their money back. Older people (aged 55+) are experiencing the biggest wait for refunds, with 5% waiting over a month before the pandemic, compared to 17% who have experienced this wait time since.