The story so far: Dixons has an exclusive deal at Britain's BAA airports to sell tax free technology goods. But shoppers can get a far better deal by shopping around. I wrote to BAA to complain the tax free claims were dishonest.
The formal opening of BAA's Terminal 5 is live on TV as I write. I'm due to fly from Terminal 1 later on today. The specially composed 'Heathrow Overture' composed by the man behind such great works as the score for Bridget Jones Diary and Finding Nemo, is overly-inspired by the car ad where the 'orchestra' make appropriate car noises. This time the sounds are appropriate to the goings on at Heathrow's terminals. Coffee whooshing from espresso bars, steak frying in the classy restaurants, cameras clicking in the duty free stores (I kid you not). Missing was the frustration as passengers await their luggage, the warning noises from baggage carousels spewing out nothing more than a discarded drinks carton.
Appropriate then that BAA's Director of Retail Operations emailed today (perhaps not invited to the Royal occasion over in T5?) about my pricing complaint in Dixons Tax Free (11th March). He thanks me for my comments but puts me right:
"The intent of high street benchmarking is to ensure that customers are not over-charged for purchases made at a BAA airport by comparing walk-up prices at the airport to the walk-up price at an off-airport location. This is then verified through an independent auditor who compares the tax free airport price to the price for the same item at the bench marked location."
There's also a maths lesson from BAA for me:
"Tax free pricing is not the same as a 17.5% discount. For any EU customer making a purchase, Revenue and Customs still expect to receive the same VAT when an item is sold at tax free price as if it were sold including VAT. For example, the underlying ex-VAT price of an item sold on the high street at £100 is £85.10, implying a 17.5% VAT rate of £14.90."
"Thank you again for your feedback. Please be assured that we share your concerns over the potential for misleading pricing and are always working hard to ensure that the customers who use our airports are treated fairly and are not overcharged."
I've emailed straight back with the photos from my previous post showing that the current discount on the quoted item is less than 2%, asking if he has anything to add before I send the evidence over to Trading Standards.
People often ask me why I bother with this type of the complaint when there's nothing in it for me. Honestly its the principle and if I can save a few other people the hassle that's fine by me. The interweb however is a heartening place and I have discovered that there are many others who feel just as strongly as me.