The Global Language of Business
  1. Home
  2. Blog

What is the difference between a barcode from GS1 and others I see on the internet?

Sep 8, 2017, by Maria Svejdar - Category: Retail Ready

GS1 is an organisation established by industry, for industry, and is run on a not-for-profit basis. GS1 was established with the specific aim of managing the allocation of identification numbers to companies and to develop the standards (rules) around the use of those numbers.

GS1 standards and a unique company prefix

Any organisation wishing to use GS1 barcode and ecommerce messaging (EDI) standards needs to join GS1 to receive their own company identification number (prefix). In fact, as your business grows and develops it may become a condition of doing business with retailers and customers to use GS1 numbers to identify your products. Using global, standard identification numbers means your products can be tracked and traced anywhere in the world, right across the supply chain from warehouses, to shops to online retailers. GS1 supply chain standards are used to enable efficiency and reduce the costs of buying and selling products.

GS1 identification numbers are used by every party across the supply chain

Organisations that are ready to take the step to use barcodes on their products apply to a local GS1 office to get their own unique company identification number (called a Global Company Prefix or GCP). This prefix is used to generate the many different types of identification numbers that are used throughout the supply chain by manufacturers, transporters and retailers to make their businesses more efficient through the use of automation e.g. barcode scanning for stock taking and at checkouts.

The range of GS1 numbers include identifiers for products (the barcodes we see in shops across the world), to codes that identify cases and pallets as they are transported from manufacturer to retailer.

GS1 Ireland country prefix - 539 - and the global database

The global number bank is subdivided between each GS1 country office – hence the different start digits in each country. Here in Ireland our national prefix starts with “539”. GS1 Ireland’s role, in addition to providing help and advice, is to manage the allocation of Irish numbers to organisations that wish to use GS1 standards. Managing the allocation of numbers includes updating the central global GS1 database with the details of each organisation to which a prefix has been allocated.

Check your barcode number registration

TRY IT - > If you already have a GS1 number you can check your registration on the global database GEPIR – or try looking up any product you might have to hand – a bottle of milk, a loaf of bread or a tin of beans from your cupboard, to see the name of the registered owner.

If you are researching barcode numbers on the internet you may come across websites offering you barcodes at a very cheap one-off rate. These operators are not part of the GS1 network and are not authorised to sell GS1 numbers. In practice what these organisations are doing is taking prefixes, some of which are registered to other companies, and re-selling them to unsuspecting start-ups. It’s simply a case of caveat-emptor or “buyer beware”. Would you, for example, buy a car from someone at the side of the road, without any official registration documents, service history or knowledge of possible accidents, just because the price looked cheaper than those available from an official dealership? It’s the same with barcodes – you need to know and be certain of the origin of the numbers you are using to identify your company and your products across the global supply chain.  

Barcode registration and supplier name

If you were to buy one of these barcodes and provide it to a retailer, when validated, the retailer would see that the number identifies another company and not you, their new supplier. Many retailers request validation of the GS1 number provided by their suppliers and if found not to identify the right supplier, they may reject your product, costing you thousands of Euro to rectify, in terms of new packaging or labels or perhaps lost sales.

As you can imagine, product traceability is an extremely important issue in business today. It is critical to be able to track a product back to the supplier or manufacturer – and the barcode number forms part of that identification and traceability process.

GS1 is operated on a not-for-profit basis with annual licence and service fees set by a voluntary Board. The GS1 Ireland Board Members are from Irish industry and give of their time voluntarily. To ensure the on-going survival and financial stability of the Association the Board agrees the annual licence fees payable by Members. The fees received are used to provide local support to organisations implementing GS1 supply chain standards here in Ireland, to maintain the global GS1 database and to update and create new standards and solutions required, as business evolves and changes in line with new technology developments or changes in regulations. For these reasons an annually renewable licence fee is payable by all Members to maintain and develop the standards, now and for the future.

The GS1 Ireland Membership Team is here to help you if you have any questions about getting started with GS1 barcodes. We also have a number of technical experts able to advise you on labelling, printing barcodes or implementing master data management or electronic business massaging (EDI).

For further information on using GS1 standards as well as the associated fees please visit our website

Tags: barcode, internet, gs1,