Retailer abuse hits barcoding

I would like to correct a few misconceptions in Alan Mitchell’s “Grocery retailers cannot rely on barcodes alone” (MW September 3), for the sake of accuracy in future reports.

He refers to The European Article Numbering Association. This should have read “EAN International, the International Article Numbering Association”. The European article Number Association changed its name in 1984 to reflect the fact that numbering organisations had by then become established in many countries outside of Europe. Nearly 90 countries are now members. The ANA was a founder member of the former European Article Numbering Association and maintains its position as leading member of EAN International.

And contrary to Alan’s assertions barcodes can be trusted. The full 13 digits of the code, not just part of it, represent the description of the item. The code is no more than the unique identifier that provides the “key” to the description, which is held in the computer database.

There are distinct rules about when the article number should be changed, but one cannot account for receivers changing the descriptions supplied to them.

This is where the current problem lies. Retailers are taking the supplier’s descriptions to the article number carried in barcode form on items and modifying them to suit the requirements of their own systems for their own purposes.

This is where the proliferation of descriptions for the same item is actually originating. It has nothing to do with the barcode. Mindful of the need for data alignment, the ANA and the Institute of Grocery Distribution are already addressing this issue through their ECR initiative.

Graham Avory

External Relations Manager

Article Number Association (UK)

London WC2

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