Choosing International Barcodes
What are international barcodes, and how are they used?
The term international barcodes refer to either UPC-A or EAN-13 format barcodes used on retail products to establish an item’s price at the checkout. Retailers also use them for establishing reordering information by tracking the stock.
International barcodes like this are managed by GS1, who ensure that each number is only applied to one product to help ensure that there are no double-ups in stores. GS1 also supply barcode numbers, but they charge high recurring fees, which make the process expensive. So instead, barcode resellers sell barcodes that initially come from the same system as GS1 numbers for a one-off cost. This is possible because the barcode numbers they sell were initially sold for a one-off cost by the predecessor of GS1-US. When GS1 tried to charge license fees retrospectively, a court battle ensued, which eventually proved that the numbers could be bought and sold without the need for any fees.
What to buy and where to get it?
The difference between EAN-13 and UPC-A format barcodes can be seen here – this should help you decide which format to go for if you don’t already know. Other than that, the only decision that needs to be made is whether to go through a reseller or GS1. Generally, people prefer to opt for reseller barcodes (if they know about them) as they are much cheaper than GS1 barcodes. However, there are a few restrictions overseas. Please see barcode acceptance for details on this.