Ebuyer, VAT inclusive prices, VAT exclusive prices, and web cookies

I have been following the comments on a web forum about an offer Ebuyer are running on the Dell C1760NW wireless colour laser printer.

Dell C1760NW

Now Ebuyer have a neat trick on their web site where you swap backwards and forwards between the ‘Consumer’ and ‘Business’ versions of the site, the main difference being that business prices are VAT exclusive. To swap you click the link at the top of the page next to the Ebuyer logo.

This is sensible for a company like Ebuyer who have a large domestic customer base but also sell to all sorts of businesses from the buying departments of large corporate firms to sole traders such as self employed plumbers who might need a printer to produce invoices and pub landlords who want to publicise music nights or print food menus.

This ‘two prices – one site‘ system had caused a bit of confusion on the forum where the Dell printer was being discussed, some people saw the VAT exclusive price and thought the price had come down. The reason for two prices was pointed out and some got the reasoning, some didn’t.

I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that switching between VAT inclusive and exclusive is so smooth, click the link and the page reloads with the revised price.


This got me thinking about how Ebuyer achieve this and thought web cookies were probably involved. I decided to use the ‘View Cookies‘ add on to the Firefox browser to examine the sites cookies.

For those not familiar with cookies they are tiny text files that web sites deposit on our computers to govern how the sites are displayed and interact with us.

Here is a line I found in the Ebuyer cookie on the consumer version of the web site:

Name: EBVATPrice    Value: 1

And on the business version of the web site:

Name: EBVATPrice    Value: 0

So that is indeed how they change which version of the web site to display, a simple flag, ‘1‘ for with VAT, ‘0‘ for without VAT.

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