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workaround Fears applicants using £100 NI High Street voucher to buy Amazon gift cards

It's understood Amazon gift cards are being purchased in supermarkets so the money, which was supposed to help local business, will be spent with the online giant instead

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Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launching the high street voucher scheme  (Liam McBurney/PA)

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launching the high street voucher scheme (Liam McBurney/PA)

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launching the high street voucher scheme (Liam McBurney/PA)

Applicants for Northern Ireland’s £100 high street voucher claim to have found a ‘work around’ loophole in the scheme which means they will be able to spend the money with Amazon.

The scheme was set up to reinvigorate the local economy after the devastating effects on local business as a result of the pandemic.

Now, callers to BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show have said many people are using ‘work around’ to exploit the £145m scheme, with the voucher designed so that it can only be used in ‘bricks and mortar’ shops and not online.

Callers said they were aware that the voucher can be used to purchase a £100 Amazon gift card in shops which offer the product, which in turn can then be used to spend the money on the Amazon website.

Mike Nesbitt of the UUP, who previously pointed out in the Assembly that the voucher can be used to buy Amazon gift cards.

Retail NI and Hospitality Ulster have both urged members of the public to use the card in local small businesses rather than use the card in large chain supermarkets or stores.

One caller to the show said they should be allowed to spend the voucher any way they see fit, even if that is in their local off-license.

Another said using the voucher to buy an Amazon gift card could mean the difference between a parent buying their children “six toys” rather than buying them “three toys” on the high street.

Speaking of the voucher being used in chain supermarkets rather than smaller independent shops, caller Michael from Newtownards asked: “Why would you give to a local retailer when Tesco looks after you all year with prices?

“That extra percentage that you get out of going to Tesco rather than the high street might make all the difference to you. Why would you look after local businesses when Tesco is giving you more for your money?”

Nolan responded: “If you are going in and giving your [£100] directly to Amazon, do you have any moral responsibility not to do that?”

It was recently revealed how drug addicts in Ulster were offering to sell their vouchers for £60 cash on the street to feed their habits.

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