Are short expiration dates on car wash vouchers entirely legal?

Hi, About 3 months ago I bought a two-fer deal on an automatic carwash at our local (reputable) Coles/Shell outlet. I figured I’d go for the discounted two-wash deal as it was a little cheaper than paying for two consecutive washes over the coming 6 months or so (I’m NOT a big car wash person, as you can tell!). So, I bought the deal, received my little print-out on the usual thermal paper and immediately used the first wash (by keying in the code supplied on the print-out). At NO POINT did the vendor point out that there was an expiration limit on the “voucher”. Frankly, I didn’t even consider such an eventuality…after all, if you pay up front, the vendor gets to use your money well in advance of you actually using the purchased service - which is absolutely to the vendor’s advantage. I never checked the “small print” on the voucher.
So, roughly 90 days later, I turn up at the car wash with the voucher in my hot little hand…and the voucher is declined!! I march into the servo, and ask what the heck is going on? I’ve paid - in advance - for a service, and I am being denied the service. I’m told the voucher lapsed at the 60-day mark. Tough luck. And, turns out it actually DID note an expiration period on the voucher…to which…bugger!
Is this legal? How can a business get the use of your money AND also deny you the service? Why is there an expiration date at all? If it takes me a year to return for my second car wash, well tough for me if I didn’t get the use of my money (and the bank interest thereon). That’s on me - and all to the benefit of the business. But, how can they get that advantage AND not supply the purchased service? Subsequently, I’ve discovered a local BP servo has a THIRTY day expiration on their vouchers…which is even more outrageous. So, what’s the law here? It seems like very shonky business practice - and certainly unethical if not illegal.


It is worth reading…

The car wash deal you got would fall under the definition of a voucher.

It does and not good customer service.

Try escalating it with Coles and/or Shell. They might be willing to resolve as goodwill.


Thanks for the constructive advice. However, one “complication” is that the servo manager told me that they (Coles/Shell) don’t actually own the car wash facility on their site. It belongs to some unspecified third party - and the expiration rules are set by them and “nothing to do” with Coles/Shell. I believe this is now known colloquially as the “Harvey Norman” rule: “…it’s not our problem that your purchase has collapsed in a pile of mouldering detritus. You deal direct with the manufacturer/supplier. We can’t help.”
I did explain that I am massively uninterested in who owns what at the service station…all I know is that “I paid you for a service, you accepted my money, and you have failed to provide the service”.
I guess I must escalate the issue as you suggest. But, it is annoying and frustrating that I have to somehow use my valuable time to direct Coles and/or Shell to a probably illegal practice on their site.

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Rather than talk that is likely to be nothing more than idle chit chat toward resolution write a Letter of Complaint (use the Community search if you are not familiar) citing the ACCC and give it to the person on duty at the servo. You can find who to address it to by finding who owns the servo - it could be posted somewhere on premises or send it to Viva Energy (trading as Shell) management direct.

Regardless of the ‘HN Rule’ if the servo took your money they have become the retailer and ‘own’ your problem for resolution.