A website for Vistaprint, www.vistaprint.co.uk, seen on 5 December 2016, displayed all prices exclusive of VAT. A page displaying a range of personalised calendars included a wall calendar for “£5.41 (ex VAT)”.
The complainant challenged whether the VAT-exclusive price was misleading.
Vistaprint BV said their website was clearly addressed to businesses, which was made clear by their tag line “Everything to market your business”. They said that the range of products they offered was primarily used by businesses for marketing purposes, which was why the prices on their website defaulted to VAT exclusive. They said the toggle feature on their website made it easy for businesses and consumers to choose which prices (VAT inclusive or exclusive) were displayed.
Vistaprint said that as their whole website was advertised to businesses, VAT exclusive prices were compliant with the CAP code. They said that incidental sales to consumers should not affect that. Vistaprint said they were willing to make changes to their website to ensure that consumers were not confused or misled by their prices.
The CAP Code stated that quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that applied to all or most buyers. However, VAT-exclusive prices could be given if all those to whom the price claim was clearly addressed paid no VAT or could recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable.
The ASA acknowledged that Vistaprint considered the website to be primarily advertising to businesses rather than consumers. We understood, however, that the website was likely to be visited by both consumers and businesses. We considered that most buyers of wall calendars were likely to be consumers rather than businesses, and that the price that applied to consumers, inclusive of all taxes, should therefore have been given.
There was a toggle at the bottom of the website which could be set to display all the prices as inclusive or exclusive of VAT. However, the website defaulted to display prices exclusive of VAT, whereas we considered, if Vistaprint wanted to be able to differentiate the prices in that way, it should have defaulted to VAT-inclusive to ensure consumers would be presented with prices that applied to them. They should also have ensured that, when users toggled to see ex-VAT prices, it was made clear to them that those prices were addressed to businesses rather than consumers. Those prices should then have been accompanied by a prominent statement of the rate or amount of VAT payable.
We acknowledged that Vistaprint were willing to make changes to their website. However, because VAT-inclusive prices were not given, we concluded that the presentation of prices on the website was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) 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 its current form. We told Vistaprint BV to ensure that quoted prices included non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that applied to all or most buyers. In addition, we told them to ensure VAT-exclusive prices were clearly addressed to those who paid no VAT or could recover VAT, and that they were accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable.