Problems with Square’s Weebly eCommerce offering

Weebly eCommerce by Square Logo

Summary

At the time of writing (13th July 2020), there are two main issues with Square’s Weebly eCommerce online store offering:

  • You can only have one rate of VAT in the Weebly online store
  • Hidden charges

Overall, this is a nice solution they’ve created for small businesses. It’s pretty easy to build a secure eCommerce website and the overall experience is decent.

If you’re VAT registered though, you need to be aware of this current limitation going in, and everyone should be aware of the potential extra costs.

Background

In our own business, we’ve been using Square as a card payment processor for almost two years now. We wanted to move away from PayPal for numerous reasons, not least the charges.

Like all these things, Square still generates accounting headaches to wrap your head around, but these are not insurmountable.

They also now offer an eCommerce service that promises a linked up experience so you can “Easily sell online … no matter what type of business you have. Plus, sell on Instagram, Facebook, and more. Launch for no monthly fee. Be in business now for free. Only pay when you make a sale – 2.5% per transaction.”

Sounds great right? So based on the above and our own generally good experience with them, I recommended Square as a payment processor and eCommerce solution when a friend was starting up his new business recently.

Issue #1: Multiple VAT Rates not Possible

This is a big one.

As a VAT registered business, you’ll know that you have a legal responsibility to produce accurate VAT receipts that comply with HMRC guidelines:
https://www.gov.uk/vat-record-keeping/vat-invoices

NB: The information here applies to other non-US territories too; anywhere there are different tax rates depending on the product.

When you first set up your products (“Items”) in Square and then add your VAT rates, this is not an issue at all. So you’d expect their online eCommerce offering would also be fine, but it isn’t.

Only certain things are synced between the Square payment processing side and the Weebly eCommerce website that underpins Square’s online eCommerce offering.

Product sync is good. It means you only have to maintain one master list of products instead of having to update multiples places.

However, tax rates do not sync and the Weebly eCommerce website builder only allows one per country outside of the USA.

So if you sell items that have different VAT rates, you’re done for.

UK example: Fruit and veg are zero rated for VAT here in the UK. If you then make a smoothie with spare fruit from your fruit and veg business, this then becomes a luxury item and is subject to the standard 20% VAT rate. So you need a way in the online store to allocate different VAT rates to products.

I phoned Square and they confirmed that this is currently not possible in their Weebly eCommerce offering and that many customers have phoned about this issue from multiple countries outside of the US where Weebly originated (and hence I think they have it together for the US tax system).

They said they’d pass this onto their product development team, but there’s no information on when or if a fix for this will become available. They also currently do not have a workaround.

I expressed that this was not a feature request, it’s a legal requirement for retailers.

Issue #2: Hidden Charges

If you’re creating your own custom online store (as opposed to using something like eBay, Etsy, Amazon etc), then you probably want it branded properly, including the web address to be your own (e.g. www.yourbrandname.com).

I’m careful, I read a lot before making a decision on something. Nowhere on their home page or online store information page is there anything written about charges for using your own domain name.

Looking retrospectively, knowing this is a thing; I finally find the information buried three pages down and even then it’s still not obvious.

  • Scroll through the Square home page (https://squareup.com/gb/en)
  • Click on the “See ways to sell online” link
  • Land on the “Sell Online” page, read everything about how “free” it is
  • Then if you scroll right the way down to the very bottom (it’s a substantial page), on the left hand side there’s a hint of potential fees in a “Compare plans” button.
  • Click on Compare Plans and it shows you the free plan and three others ranging from £108 – £648 per year (or more if paid monthly).
  • Below the plans, there’s a frequently asked questions list.

The FAQ continues – each of these descriptions is hidden under a disclosure arrow:

“Is it really free?
Yes. With our free plan, you can use the online store builder to create, design and launch your site – all for free. Your only cost comes when you make a sale – just 2.5% per transaction.”

“Do I get free web hosting when I open an online store?
Yes. Our free web hosting platform provides exceptional speed, performance, and security … includes a free SSL certificate [which] also helps power eCommerce by enabling customers to checkout directly on your domain.”

Then finally, you get to it:

“Can I use a custom domain?
Yes. To use a new custom domain name or one you already own you will need to subscribe to an annual paid plan. Support for custom domains is not available on our free plan.”

Third page and hidden under a disclosure triangle. I would not call this transparent.

I know nothing is free. My original thoughts were that they included the eCommerce offering with the Square account because then they’d hopefully get more sales, and hence more transaction fees.

To be clear, I’m not expecting a free domain, this is simply changing DNS on an existing domain to point at the new web store you created with them and it turns out the minimum charge for this is £48 per year (which incidentally, is not shown as an option on the Compare Plans page at all – this is only an option hidden in small text under the other plans when you click the upgrade link in the Weebly site builder to link your domain.

Note also that paying your £48 does not remove the Square advertising banner at the bottom of your website. To make that disappear you’ll need to jump up another level.

Further Links to Background on Square and Weebly

26th April 2018 – Square to Acquire Weebly for approx. $365 million:
https://squareup.com/gb/en/press/square-to-acquire-weebly

9th April 2019 – Square launches new online store to boost UK SMEs:
https://squareup.com/gb/en/press/online-store-uk

Motley Fool article about Weebly’s integration to Square:
Square’s Finally Putting Its Weebly Acquisition to Use
The payment-processing specialist revamped its e-commerce platform in order to integrate with Weebly.

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