Not All Barcodes Are Created Equal

Unverified barcodes

Yesterday I read on the expando website about an interesting (and unpleasant) experience with barcodes. More precisely, with unverified barcodes – the ones that people either create themselves or purchase from an untrustworthy vendor.

EAN or UPC barcodes are necessary in today’s global trading. Amazon, eBay, or Google shopping require individual products to have unique identifiers (more info here). It should not be a problem, because getting EAN or UPC barcodes is quite easy. On eBay, you can buy 1000 codes for a couple of bucks but … not all barcodes are created equal!

Cheap EAN barcodes can cost you!

Buying cheap, unverified barcodes can cause you great inconveniences that will eventually cost you much more than getting a verified barcode from a reputable seller right away. Let’s say, for example, that you are listing a product on Amazon and use an unverified barcode that is already owned by someone else:

One time we began listing a complete range of products for our customer. Each product was listed as unique, although [similar products] were already there. Within a few days, 10,000 products were listed and the first sales came in immediately. But after a week, [Amazon] Seller Performance Team has called saying that all duplicate products were removed. They also warned the seller that if this happens again his account will be blocked (read the entire article here).

I heard of a similar story from a colleague whose customers got an unverified barcode and later they had to manually replace barcodes on 40 000 bottles of wine!

Where can I get a legitimate barcode?

Manufacturers and resellers have two options:

  1. You can register at GS1 Czech Republic or another local office. It is a lengthy and expensive process, but for large businesses it may be a good option.
  2. You can buy barcodes from an authorized barcode reseller that will be able to supply you with unique EAN/UPC* barcodes for a one-time price and with immediate delivery. This option is ideal for smaller companies.

In any case do not buy unverified EAN barcodes and do not try to produce them yourself.  These will not be usable in retail and will cost you in the end.

Amazon may remove products with unofficial barcodes. In the USA Amazon is already linked with GS1 database and checks legitimacy of sellers’ barcodes.

If you end up changing your barcodes later it will cause you to lose previous customer reviews as well. Further info about product identifiers is available here.

All the best and happy trading!


*EAN-13 barcodes are used around the world while the 12 digit UPC-A barcodes are used primarily in North America.