A flyer for VistaPrint stated "250 PREMIUM BUSINESS CARDS + upload + stamp + shipping for £9.99 ex. VAT" and "ALL INCLUSIVE ONLY £9.99". Small print stated "Prices above are business only prices ex. VAT (20%) and delivery. Non-business customers see website for inc. VAT prices and full terms and conditions". The ad included pictures of three business cards.
The complainant, who noted the price did not include VAT or postage, challenged whether the claim "ALL INCLUSIVE ONLY £9.99" was misleading.
VistaPrint Ltd (VistaPrint) said that shipping was included in the £9.99 price, but that due to an error they had stated in the footnotes that it was not - they said they would ensure this was amended in their future flyers. They provided examples of five orders to demonstrate that standard shipping was included in the price. They said the ad contained a VAT-exclusive business price, with "ex. VAT" stated next to the price and that this was also stated in the footnotes. They said the business cards pictured in the ad focused specifically on business customers. They did not believe the claim "ALL INCLUSIVE ONLY £9.99" was misleading because it was clear from the ad that the price was VAT-exclusive.
The ASA considered that because the price quoted in the ad did in fact include shipping the price claim was not misleading on this basis, and we welcomed VistaPrint's assurance that this would be amended in future ads. We considered that it was in principle acceptable to state "ALL INCLUSIVE ONLY £9.99" whilst quoting a VAT exclusive price providing the price claim complied with the Code. The CAP Code stated that VAT-exclusive prices could only be given if all those to whom the price claim was clearly addressed paid no VAT or could recover VAT, and that such prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable. We noted the flyer had not been sent only to those who paid no VAT or could recover VAT and so would have been seen by both business and non-business consumers. Although the ad was for business cards, and the featured business cards included business names, which indicated they would be able to recover VAT, we considered that business cards were a product which consumers, other than businesses who could recover VAT, may wish to purchase. We did not consider that the ad made sufficiently clear that the price claim was addressed only to those who paid no VAT or could recover VAT, for example by stating "Business price" or "Trade price", and considered that both references to the price should have made this clear. We also considered it was not sufficient to state the rate or amount of VAT only in the footnotes, and that this should have prominently accompanied the price. We concluded the ad breached the Code.
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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) 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).
We also investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.20 3.20 Marketing communications that state prices must also state applicable delivery, freight or postal charges or, if those cannot reasonably be calculated in advance, state that such charges are payable. (Prices) but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told VistaPrint to ensure that they only quoted VAT-exclusive prices if all those to whom the price claim was clearly addressed paid no VAT or could recover VAT, and that such VAT-exclusive prices were accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable.