A sponsored listing for VistaPrint, a printing company, seen on 25 August 2016, stated “1,000 flyers for only £13.99”.
The complainant, who had been unable to find 1,000 flyers at the stated price on the advertiser’s website, challenged whether the ad was misleading and could be substantiated.
VistaPrint BV said that, at the time the ad was seen, the price for 1,000 flyers started at £13.99, exclusive of VAT. They provided screenshots of the different steps of the order process. This included the landing page that they said would have been accessed after clicking on the ad, which stated “1,000 start at £19.99 £13.99 (ex. VAT)”. The ad stated “Low, Flat Rate Delivery”, and VistaPrint believed that this made clear that the standard delivery costs were not included. They said that all other non-optional fees and charges, including for different customisation options and delivery, were included as default in the order process. They stated that before the customer placed their order, they were provided with an outline of the product costs, shipping and VAT (if applicable). They therefore believed that all non-optional costs had been made sufficiently clear. They believed they had demonstrated that 1,000 flyers were available at the cost of £13.99 and therefore that the ad was not misleading.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “1,000 flyers for only £13.99” to mean that the quantity of 1,000 flyers was available to purchase at that price. We noted that the screenshot of the landing page provided by VistaPrint stated “1,000 start at £19.99 £13.99 (ex. VAT). However, we noted that the complainant had been unable to find 1,000 flyers at this price, either with or without VAT, when they clicked through from the ad, and neither had the ASA. We also noted that the response provided by the advertiser indicated that £13.99 was the starting price for 1,000 flyers, as there were different sizes available and some customisation options would increase the price further. We therefore considered that the ad should have made clear that £13.99 was a “from” price.
That notwithstanding, we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that 1,000 flyers had actually been available to purchase at this price. Furthermore, we noted that quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers, including VAT. The price in the ad did not include VAT, and we did not consider that the ad clearly addressed only those who did not pay VAT. Because the ad did not make clear that the advertised price was a “from” price, and because the same price statement did not include all non-optional charges, and had in any case not been substantiated, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. and 3.18 3.18 Quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. However, VAT-exclusive prices may be given if all those to whom the price claim is clearly addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told VistaPrint BV to ensure that they held sufficient evidence to substantiate their price statements and that these included all non-optional taxes, fees and charges, including VAT. They should also ensure that they make clear if price statements refer to “from” prices.