Thompsons falls foul of ASA

Independent builders merchant Thompson Building Centres has had to remove an advertisement that breached Advertising Standards Authority guidelines.

A regional press ad for the builders merchant’s building services and materials that included their prices stated “… All prices plus VAT”.

A reader complained that the advert was misleading because it only showed prices that excluded VAT.

Thompson Building Centres argued that, while the advert did not include a VAT inclusive price, they considered that because they were targeting trade customers, and the ad appeared within the trade section of the paper, they did not need to include a VAT inclusive price.

Thompson said they recognised that the ad could have been clearer by stating that the advertised prices were trade prices. However, they considered that the ad clearly stated that the prices did not include VAT, and because of that they did not consider the ad was misleading.

The complaint was upheld because the ASA said that the newspaper in question, the Sunderland Echo, was a regional press publication targeted at members of the public, although it agreed that the advert was placed in the trade section. ASA considered that it would not necessarily be clear to consumers that the ad was in a trade section of the paper or targeted at trade customers only. Moreover, it considered that the advertised products, which included bricks, plasterboard and cement, were likely to have been of interest to consumers.

Although there was a note in the small print in the ad to state that prices did not include VAT, because most consumers would have to pay VAT, the ASA considered that that disclaimer was not sufficient and that the ad should have stated VAT inclusive prices.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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