Royal Mail aims to make e-commerce safe for all

The Royal Mail has launched its first electronic communication product, in a break from its 350-year “hard copy” tradition.

Available on CD-Rom for use with Windows 95, 98 and NT, Viacode is an e-commerce security tool providing instant encryption for messages and digital certification of users. Users prove their identity by showing a passport or similar identification to the Royal Mail or an agent of the scheme. A digital identity is then registered.

Viacode is being made available to companies first, which in many cases will establish the identity of their own staff to standards laid down by the Royal Mail.

However, the intention is that in the future, individuals will be able to register their digital identity at Post Offices.

Royal Mail managing director Richard Dykes says “the potential is fairly obvious” for the system (or a future smart card version) to be used for combating benefit fraud.

The ultimate aim, according to Royal Mail director of electronic services Jim Pang, is to make Viacode “the largest public certification authority in the UK, to act as a catalyst to the growth of e-commerce, and to allow organisations and individuals to connect electronically in a secure way”.

The service will cost about 1 per user per month, regardless of the size of the company. It will be marketed through an integrated telemarketing and direct mail campaign.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here