Barcodes Fact Sheet

There are many misconceptions how barcodes work and what the numbers mean. This fact sheet will help dispel some common barcode myths and get you on the right track with retail barcodes.

Barcodes exist to mainly help retailers. Barcodes are included on product packaging so retailers can quickly retrieve product data.  Barcodes eliminate human error involved with manual entry, are fast and accurate speeding up the checkout process.

– The two main retail barcode formats used worldwide are EAN-13 and UPC-A.  EAN-13 and UPC-A is the international standard for almost all retail products. Our EAN-13 numbers have a leading zero (13 digits total) and our UPCs have this zero dropped (12 digits total). Our prefix range is 060 – 089 in EAN or 60 – 89 as UPC.

EAN-13 and UPC-A are suitable for almost every product category, except books and magazines.

A single unique barcode number is required for a single unique product. This can then be copied on every unit and scanned countless times.  e.g. 1 million cans of 300ml Coke can be sold 1 million times, the barcode is the same on every can sold.

Barcodes are not legally required. There are no specific laws for barcodes. Retailers have their own requirements that are based on industry standards and guidelines as outlined by GS1 (The Global Standards Body). Almost all retailers require barcodes to stock and sell products.  Retailer requirements can differ from store to store. A small number of large retailers require direct GS1 membership of vendors.  Others simply require a barcode verification report (our barcodes pass verification reports) or a barcode that meets GS1 standards. See our barcode acceptance page for further information.

Barcodes only contain the numbers below the bars.  The product data itself is registered on a retailer’s database (not within the barcode).  Retailer’s have their own internal databases that are independent of each other. e.g. a local convenience store will not use the same database as a major supermarket.

There is no centralised database that holds all individual barcode/product information globally.  Given the amount of barcodes in circulation it would be practically impossible to implement one. People assume once a barcode is registered the data will appear everywhere. Data will only appear if there is an entry for that product and number in the given database.

Retailers register your product data. Retailers will record your product’s barcode number in their database when on-boarding your product.  This is done by either scanning or manually entering the number into their database along with the relevant product details. Once this is done the product information will appear at Point of Sale (P.O.S.).  Some larger retailers and online platforms will have forms to enter your product and barcode information.

GEPIR does not show any product data. GS1’s GEPIR only shows the first holder of the barcode prefix searched and no product information.  There are many online databases and smartphone apps that provide product information along with the barcode number.

GS1 is a voluntary membership organistaion, not a mandatory requirement.  However all globally unique retail barcodes sold or licensed originate with GS1/UCC. Our barcodes originate with the same numbering system as GS1 and can be legally sold.

Barcodes do not show the Country of Origin of a product.  The “Country Code” only shows which branch of GS1 first issued the barcode, not the where the actual product is manufactured e.g. a product made in the United States can have a 955 prefixed barcode while a product made in Malaysia can have an 078 prefixed code.

Made up or free generator barcodes are only suitable for internal use.  This is perfectly fine for tracking items within your own store. They otherwise risk collision with GS1/UCC barcodes.

Barcode assignment is the responsibility of the product owner.  This is the case if you obtain your barcodes through a 3rd party such as us or directly through GS1.

– Our EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes are GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers) and can be scanned in any country worldwide.

Our EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes are suitable for all retail products except Books, Magazines and Pharmaceuticals.  Books require ISBN numbers from an ISBN Agency. Magazines require ISSN numbers from an ISSN Agency.  Pharmaceuticals require pharmacodes or Datamtrix codes.

– QR Codes, Code39s etc are no substitute for retail barcodes (EAN-13 and UPC-A) e.g. a QR Code cannot be scanned at P.O.S.