ASA Adjudication on VistaPrint Ltd
22 Victoria Street
4 July 2012
Brochure, Magazine, National press, Television, Internet (display), Internet (sales promotion), Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Four issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
Four ads for VistaPrint Ltd.
a. The voice-over for a TV ad for a calendar stated "Visit vistaprint.co.uk/calendar now and create one personalised photo-calendar for just 99p". On-screen text stated "... wall calendar only available at sale price ... was £11.99. Postage costs £5 for standard 14 day delivery, was £6.24. See website for Ts & Cs. Offer ends 15/01/12.
b. A press ad stated "1 Photo Wall Calendar now 99p!"
Claims on the VistaPrint website stated:
c. "Standard-Size Personal Postcards ... 100 for only £5.00 ...".
d. "Calendars ... "Wall Calendars 1 Starts at FREE ... Desk Calendars 1 Starts at FREE ... Poster Calendars 1 Starts at £2.99 ... Calendar Magnets 25 Start at FREE ... Wallet Calendars 250 Starts at FREE ... Personalised Diaries 1 Starts at FREE ...".
1. 13 complainants, who found that the quoted price in ad (a) excluded VAT and postage, challenged whether the claim "... one personalised photo-calendar for just 99p" in ad (a) was misleading.
2. Four complainants, who found that the quoted price in ad (b) excluded non-optional extras and postage, challenged whether the claim "1 Photo Wall Calendar now 99p!" in ad (b) was misleading.
3. Two complainants, who found that the quoted price in ad (c) excluded VAT and postage, challenged whether the claim "100 for only £5.00" in ad (c) was misleading.
4. Two complainants, who found that in order to obtain the "free" calendar, they had to pay additional charges, including VAT and delivery, challenged whether the use of "free" in ad (d) was misleading.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
VistaPrint Ltd (VistaPrint) said that all quoted prices included VAT and that the ads made clear that shipping costs applied.
1. They said ad (a) offered one personalised calendar for 99p which included VAT and made clear that shipping costs applied. They submitted a screenshot of an order confirmation which indicated that one Photo Wall Calendar had been ordered for 99p and that shipping and processing cost £3.70. It also stated that £0.79 tax had been included in the above price and VistaPrint said it was included in the product price of 99p. They also submitted various screenshots of transactions confirmations and one order confirmation e-mail, which they said the customer received after placing an order, and showed that the VAT-exclusive price of the calendar was 82p and 99p with VAT. They said the VAT referred to in the order confirmation screenshot and the confirmation e-mail related to the product and the shipping and that the VAT on the product was 17p and 62p for the shipping. They said, because the ad included text that stated "Postage costs £5 for standard day delivery, was £6.24. See website for Ts & Cs", viewers were fully informed about the pricing of the advertised product. They also believed that additional charges only had to be stated if they related to “free” products.
Clearcast said VistaPrint confirmed that the cost of the calendar was 99p and that this included VAT, and that they were sent screenshots which demonstrated that this was the case. They said delivery and shipping were not included but that the ad included qualifying text that made clear that there was a reduction in this cost. They believed that, because the price of the calendar included VAT, and delivery charges were made clear, the ad was not misleading.
2. VistaPrint said ad (b) was not misleading because non-optional extras were included in the price and the ad clearly stated that shipping costs applied. They said the size of the ad did not allow for all details of the promotion to be stated but that their website address was provided. They also said the "Details and Pricing" section of their website clearly stated that photo upload was free and that consumers could order the calendar without additional charges or non-optional extras and that customers were able to get an instant quote on shipping costs. They submitted various screenshots of their website which they said made clear that shipping costs applied.
3. & 4. They said they were a Business to Business (B2B) company and that their customers were small businesses. They said, by law, they were allowed to apply VAT on the products they sold, such as the postcards in ad (c) and the desk calendars and magnets in ad (d). They submitted three official statements for the stock market and several articles from financial websites which referred to VistaPrint as a company who provided services to “micro businesses worldwide”, “small businesses” and offered customers, among other things, “business identity”. They also submitted screenshots of their competitor’s websites which they said showed prices exclusive of VAT. They believed these documents demonstrated that they were not required to show VAT-inclusive prices. They said, at the top right hand corner of their website, consumers could click on the "Details and Pricing" section which directed them to information about prices, including where to get an instant quote on applicable shipping costs. They provided various screenshots of their website which they said made clear that shipping costs applied.
The ASA noted VistaPrint believed that that they only had to state additional charges if they related to “free” products. However, we noted BCAP Code rule 3.19 made clear that all quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that applied to all or most buyers.
We noted the ad included on-screen text that stated "Postage costs £5 for standard 14 day delivery." We also noted VistaPrint submitted documents that indicated that several customers had purchased a Photo Wall Calendar for 99p and that the total price, including £3.70 for shipping and processing and 79p for tax, was £4.69 and that VistaPrint said that 17p of the 79p tax related to the product, while the remaining 62p related to the shipping.
However, we noted that these documents related to transactions for a 21 day delivery service, and not the standard 14 day delivery as stated in the ad. We also noted the order confirmation email showed the breakdown of costs for the same order and indicated that the calendar cost 82p, shipping and processing cost £3.08, VAT cost 79p and the total was £4.69. While we had received evidence that demonstrated that consumers were able to purchase the photo-calendar for 99p, including VAT, we had not received evidence, at the time of the original adjudication, that consumers paid no more than £5 for the standard 14 day delivery. Such evidence was subsequently provided but we received no good reason why it could not have been submitted previously.
On this point ad (a) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Substantiation), but was not in breach of Code rules 3.2 and 3.3.3 (Misleading advertising), and 3.18 and 3.19 (Prices).
We noted VistaPrint said the size of ad (b) did not allow for all details of the promotion to be stated but instead, referred readers to their website. We noted the screenshots of the website indicated that photo upload was free and that one Photo Wall Calendar cost 99p. We also noted text stated "Get an instant quote including shipping and processing costs!". However, we noted the ad did not state that shipping and processing costs applied and, in the absence of evidence to demonstrate that all or most consumers paid a minimum of 99p for one Photo Wall Calendar, we considered that the claim had not been substantiated and concluded that it was misleading.
On this point ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.17, 3.18 and 3.20 (Prices).
We noted VistaPrint said they were a B2B company. We noted the statements and screenshots submitted indicated that VistaPrint offered services to small businesses. However, as we had not seen any evidence to demonstrate that all or most of their customers paid no VAT or could recover VAT for the product advertised, we considered they were required to state VAT-inclusive prices. We noted the screenshots of their website provided various links that directed consumers to their full details and pricing and stated "Get an instant quote including shipping and processing costs!". However, we noted ad (c) did not did not state that VAT and postage costs were excluded and, in the absence of evidence to demonstrate that all or most consumers paid a minimum of £5 for the postcards, we considered the prices claim had not been substantiated and concluded that it was misleading.
On this point ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.17, 3.18 and 3.20 (Prices).
We noted ad (d) did not state that additional charges, including VAT and delivery, were applicable. In the absence of any evidence to demonstrate that all or most consumers were able to obtain the calendar for free, we considered that the use of "free" had not been substantiated and concluded that it was misleading.
On this point ad (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.17, 3.18 and 3.20 (Prices) and 3.24.1 (Free).
Ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) must not appear again in their current form. We told VistaPrint to include VAT, postage and all other non-optional charges in all future price statements. We also told them not to make price statements, including "free" claims, unless they held robust documentary evidence to substantiate them.