I've bought a few hundred dollars worth of Irregular's stuff in the past. They get some flak over the varying quality of their line (and some of their stuff I've seen, like their 25mm Sci-Fi, can be pretty bad), but some things they have are very nice, like their 15mm colonials and their wide range of 6mm figures. I've mostly bought through their resellers, Silver Eagle Wargames and, back when the currency exchange favored it, Eureka Miniatures. I have been fairly pleased with their products.
As you might have noticed here, recently a friend and I ordered four 6mm fantasy armies directly from Irregular. My friend placed the order himself, and I just offered tips, such as reminding him that, as consumers outside the EU, we weren't subject to the 17% VAT EU tax. We got the VAT discounted, paid 45% of the total in shipping (which was about 10% too high, IIRC), and got our order just fine, except for one small problem (I got four incorrect strips of 6mm figures). There weren't any surprises in the order and we were pleased.
I followed this order up with the samples for the Austro-Prussian War project. I totalled it out, subtracting VAT (by slightly too much, it turns out), and sent the order off to Irregular. I followed up with a phone call the next day, speaking to someone there and giving my credit card number. I wasn't informed of any problems with my order at that time. The next day, however, I got an e-mail informing me that they had shipped my order but, "As explained to [my friend], we only deduct 15% VAT on orders over £50! Sorry about that."
My first problem with this is that they would ship my order without first clearing the changes to my order with me. Maybe they did mention this to my friend (who says they didn't), but obviously I was unaware of it. In this case, it was only a difference of about $8.00, but I certainly would have felt much better about it.
My second problem is not receiving the VAT discount. It doesn't appear to be the situation in the US where sales tax is calculated seperately, so it's not exactly that they collected tax and didn't turn it in (unfiltered discussion on this point here). However, that cost is calculated into their prices and I feel that since that cost obviously doesn't apply to me, it should be discounted on all my orders, not just those over an arbitrary threshold.
I followed up with the following e-mail, politely explaining my position on the matter:
Sorry, I didn't go into all the purchasing detail with [my friend] when he
placed the order. However, I was under the impression that VAT was
zero-rated on exports, and from looking at the HM Revenue & Customs
website, I don't appear to be mistaken.
This is from http://tinyurl.com/9gl2h, HMRC Reference:Notice 703,
"Export of goods from the United Kingdom:"
"2.2 Why does zero-rating apply to exports?
VAT is a tax levied on goods and services consumed in the EC. When
goods are exported they are 'consumed' outside the EC and to impose VAT
on such goods would be contrary to the purpose of the tax. Therefore,
the supply of exported goods is zero-rated provided certain conditions
Those conditions are laid out in 3.3 and 3.4 and, I think, mostly
define what is considered an export, and all seem to apply.
I'm not trying to be a jerk, I just don't usually get charged VAT when
ordering from the UK and am wondering why I am now. I am no expert in
My third problem with the whole deal is that Irregular ignored the letter and declined to respond.
It's not like Irregular broke the law or took me for much money, but what really irks me is that there are a lot of other companies out there who will give you great customer service. I'll just shop with them in the future. If the US currency gains in strength again, I might resume ordering Irregular products from Eureka, but I think until then, I'm done buying from Irregular. So, no 2mm Austro-Prussian War! And no 6mm, either, as Irregular is the only company I'm aware of that does that, although Baccus is starting a Franco-Prussian War range, and said it's possible they may expand it to cover the Austro-Prussian War. I guess I'll use proxies to work the scenario out for the contest, making this project a lot easier on me but a lot less interesting for you.
Update: Follow up here.