Fifteen years since this newspaper’s Fair Play consumer affairs team first campaigned to get the VAT taken off Sky subscriptions, we have once again successfully argued that Channel Islanders have been paying too much.
Readers can now ring a special phone number to claim a 20% discount on their Sky subscription.
This offer applies to all Sky TV packages, including Sky Q, Sky HD and Sky Multiscreen.
The JEP’s renewed focus on the issue became necessary after it emerged that the offer had either been removed or conveniently forgotten.
As of today, all Islanders are eligible to a 20% discount on their Sky subscriptions if they do not already receive the reduction.
The welcome announcement by the media giant follows months of negotiations with Sky, who initially insisted that VAT was not charged on the bills of Jersey customers.
In a statement issued to the JEP in June, their corporate communications manager said: ‘One of Sky’s aims is that we communicate simply, clearly and easily with our 23 million customers. As a consequence, in each of our ‘‘markets’’ all Sky products are priced inclusive of any indirect taxes. The customer has one simple, inclusive price to consider when deciding to make a purchase.
‘Owing to the common language, currency and content packages, we treat Channel Island customers as part of our UK “market”.
‘This means that the price paid by a customer in the Channel Islands is the same as any other customer elsewhere in the UK market, irrespective of the VAT rates in force (if any).’
He added that Channel Islanders were not entitled to a historical VAT refund for subscriptions already paid for.
JEP editor Andy Sibcy said: ‘We obviously did not think that was anywhere near acceptable and so we kept up the pressure, arguing that customers in Jersey should not be paying VAT.
‘I am very pleased to be able to reveal to readers today that we have won the argument and that Sky have relented, although they have insisted that the 20% discount is a ‘goodwill’ gesture and not a VAT-free price. The company said that it would not be making any backdated payments to those who have been overpaying, which is disappointing. I would, however, like to thank Sky for listening and coming to the right conclusion.’
Mr Sibcy added: ‘There may be some Islanders who are still benefiting from the victory scored several years ago by our Fair Play team, which was spearheaded by the former deputy editor and now the chairman of the Jersey Consumer Council, Carl Walker. Those people will not be entitled to the ‘goodwill’ offer.’
In an announcement sent to the JEP Sky said: ‘We are pleased to offer the 20% goodwill discount to our customers in Jersey.
‘Customers in Jersey can call 0344 2411965 to speak to a customer service adviser and their 20% goodwill discount on Sky TV products will be applied to their accounts. The line is open from 8.30 and until 9pm.’
Sky has argued that its Jersey price, although the same as the UK, did not include VAT.
The company has also said that its practice of charging a single price across the UK is not unique and that many other companies have a similar policy. A 2018 States report titled ‘VAT treatment of goods sold by UK-based retailers and delivered to Jersey consumers; possibilities of charging GST on goods delivered to Jersey consumers’ listed the following retailers as ones which charge Islanders the same price as UK customers. They included Boots online, eBay, Debenhams Online UK, Next Online UK, Marks and Spencer UK, and Sports Direct.
Mr Sibcy said: ‘There are, unfortunately, many UK retailers and service providers which charge VAT to Jersey customers, and the JEP will be seeing what it can do to use its influence to address that for Islanders. It is also true, of course, that many more enlightened companies do not.’
Mr Walker said: ‘When working on this story in my days as a reporter at the JEP, it took a great deal of effort to persuade such a large multi-national company that its pricing policy across the Channel Islands was simply wrong.
‘While it was a great victory for the paper at the time, and while a presumably a good deal of Islanders have continued to enjoy VAT-free Sky TV subscriptions, it became clear that the broadcaster was no longer offering or advertising this special rate for Channel Islanders, meaning new subscribers were paying more in Jersey than some of their neighbours.
‘Therefore, it is great news that the JEP has once again scored this victory as part of its campaign to get a better deal for its readers, fully backed and endorsed by the Jersey Consumer Council, to highlight those companies wrongly applying VAT-equivalent prices to Islanders.’