How seriously is Wiley taking its European customers? The NYSE-listed provider of professional education services doesn’t seem to be aware of basic consumer rights legislation in Europe and the UK.
European customers should expect the final price they pay for Wiley’s products to be higher than advertised, even when offered a discount.
One particular buyer in England could be forgiven for thinking she was going to pay $796 for an educational course that was advertised at $995 with a 20% discount on Wiley’s website.
In Europe it is widely known that taxes and charges must be included in the advertised price upfront or, if this is not possible, the advertisement or display must clearly warn the customer that taxes and charges will be added to arrive at the final price.
But when she got to the checkout, the European customer had a shock. The 20% discount was almost wiped out by a mysterious “Tax”, of which there was no warning on the first page. The bill was now $955.20.
However, this turned out not to have been the final bill either. When the customer clicked on “Continue” to finalise the purchase, another cost was added: $60 for shipping.
The total price ended up at $997.20, wiping out the 20% discount promised by Wiley and adding $2.20 to the original price.
Confusion over the tax
A query to Wiley’s customer service department elicited this brief response: “Thank you for your email and for your interest in our review courses. Unfortunately, your order if you enter in a UK address is subject to the 20% VAT tax since we have several brick and mortar offices in the UK. I can offer you an additional 25.00 off of any special offer on the web-site as long as your order is over 100.00.”
A subsequent complaint from the customer containing links to the European Union’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the UK’s marketing and advertising laws and asking Wiley to explain how it complies with these laws took more than two weeks to get an answer.
When it finally arrived, the reply showed that Wiley now seemed to believe that the 20% tax was a US one, rather than UK VAT. The reply read: “To make a complaint you will need to contact our Wiley Efficient Learning team which I will provide the link down below. Please note that for U.S. products they will always have tax because that is how our government is setup. I hope that I have answered your questions.”
Wiley’s revenues from its biggest European operations UK, Germany and France totalled around $309 million in fiscal 2017, or around 18% of overall revenues. The UK, with $189 million in revenues, was Wiley’s second-largest market globally after the US, according to data from “Publishers’ Weekly”.
With such an important share of its sales coming from European customers, perhaps it’s time for Wiley to offer some refresher course to its own sales and customer support departments in how to abide by the legislation and commercial practices of the countries where it does business.
A company spokesperson said: “After reviewing your concern, we realize that Wiley’s efficientlearning.com is a global site, not specifically catering to EU or UK customers and as such, only shows VAT after a customer’s regional identification points (e.g. at the checkout page). While we are meeting the legal requirements, we realize there is room for improvement and have a team dedicated to finding the best solution. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”
The response did not explain why there was no warning on the first page that customers will pay more than the price advertised once taxes and shipping costs are added, nor did it disclose a timeframe for the implementation of the promised improvements.