October 19, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 121 Comments

EAN Barcodes Explained!

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ean-barcodesLast week I received an email from a blog reader with some questions about EAN codes, and instead of answering her and including the question in our weekly Q&A post, I instead decided to create a full-detail blog post for it.

Here is the email that Nicki sent to me:

Hi Andrew

I just wondered whether you could provide me with a bit of guidance on EAN codes please?

I am looking to import a product (with different sizes) from China to sell on eBay and to sell to small retailers in my local area.

Would I need an EAN code to do this? If so, where is the best place to purchase these codes or would the manufacturer already have these unique bar codes to put on the products at my request?

Please could you advise what the costs implications are for buying EAN codes and any pros and cons for having/not having the codes on the imported products?

I have not yet decided whether I am going to brand the products. If I do, am I more likely to require an EAN code for each product?

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

So let’s now cover Nicki’s questions (and more!).

First of all – what are EAN codes and how do they work?

A simple explanation is that EANs are unique identifiers (barcodes) used to identify new, branded products sold at retail.

The EAN, which originally stood for European Article Number but is now referred to as International Article Number, is a 13 digit number found below the barcode:

ean-codeThis is the standard product identifier used in Europe and is recognised by nearly all retailers (after all, the whole point of the system is lost if it’s not adopted by all sellers). Pretty much any company or marketplace that you can think of will use these barcodes.

marketplacesThere is sometimes a bit of confusion between EAN and UPC (Universal Product Code). The answer is that they are both Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), with the difference being UPCs are one digit shorter (12) and are more commonly used in the United States and Canada.

If you do want to learn more about all of this, please take a look at the article I did on eBay’s new product identifiers, as this was all covered then.

Do you need EAN codes?

Now that you know what they are and how they’re used, the question is whether or not you need them for your business?

And really that depends on what and where you’re selling…

You will need EAN codes for your products if:

  • You sell on Amazon

It’s a requirement that your products have their own unique identifiers/barcodes if you want to sell on Amazon.

Of course this only applies when you want to sell your own, unique products, i.e. when you’re the manufacturer. You will not need one if you’re simply offering an iPad for sale, as in that case there will already be a code in place for that specific item.

Let me quickly note, as I know I am going to get emails about this particular point – if you get a factory to manufacture a product for you, which you then import in to the UK for re-sale, you are the manufacturer and it is your responsibility to ensure it is properly labelled.

It really is as simple as that, so please don’t try to get around this with a technicality!

  • You sell to bricks and mortar stores

As mentioned before, EAN are the retail standard barcodes, so if you sell your products to B&M stores, you’ll need these codes as they’re used for inventory and POS systems.

Where to purchase EAN codes?

By now you should be clear on whether or not you need EAN codes, in Nicki’s case that’s a yes as she plans to sell to local stores.

The question remaining is where do you buy these codes from? And there are two answers really.

Firstly you have the official option – directly from GS1 UK:


GS1 UK are the UK version (obviously) of the global GS1 organisation, and they are the ones who actually create and manage these barcodes.

To get barcodes directly from GS1, you need to join and become a member, for which you need to pay a joining fee and then an annual license fee. The joining fee is a one-off charge whereas the annual license fee is of course charged every year. In return for these fees you get an allocation of EAN codes.

The cost of this depends on your annual turnover, but as the lowest level is up to £500,000 a year, we’ll use that for our calculations:

  • Turnover: Up to £0.5m
  • Annual license fee: £119
  • Joining fee: £109
  • Allocation: Up to 1,000 numbers

gs1-membershipThe fees are both ex. VAT, so I will also add a separate calculation including VAT.

In total, the cost will be:

£228/£273.60 – Year 1

£119/£142.80 – Year 2 onwards

And using the full 1,000 allocation, that gives a cost per code of:

23p/27p – Year 1

12p/14p – Year 2 onwards

Pretty reasonable, right? After all, taking even the highest amount, what is 27p per code… nothing, especially on turnover up to half a million!

Yes, but what if you don’t need 1,000 codes? What if you only have one item that you sell on Amazon? Then the cost is £273.60 for the first year and £142.80 every year after. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so reasonable.

But what are the alternatives? After all this is the company that actually produces and manages these codes, it’s not as if you can go to a competitor.

And this is where the second (unofficial) buying option that I mentioned earlier comes into play – buying from resellers!

There are a huge number of these resellers online, as a quick search for “EAN barcode UK” will show:

search-barcodesBarCodesTalk.co.uk claim to have sold over 40,000,000 barcodes, “more than all of the other bar code resellers combined”, so they should be a good example for pricing.

The pricing on their site is in Euros, so I have converted to Pounds at a rate of 1.3:

pricingAs you can see the prices are very reasonable, with a single barcode costing just £3.85 and a hundred only £0.35 each.

I now also want to quickly compare this to the pricing of another unofficial reseller, Bay Demon, who I have actually recommended to people in the past who were looking for one or two codes and didn’t want to join GS1.

bay-demon-barcodesAs you can see Bay Demon also have some excellent pricing, with a single barcode costing just £1.50! They are a little more expensive than Bar Codes Talk at higher quantities, but not by much, and I have had good experiences with Bay Demon in the past.

Plus remember that neither of these sellers charge a yearly or renewal fee, you only pay for your barcodes once and then you own them for life.

BUT, I am now brought to a very important question – are there any problems buying from these resellers?

Before I answer that question, I want to very quickly explain how they work. As we’ve already gone over, all of these barcodes originate from GS1 in the first place, so the ones you buy from these resellers were still bought from GS1, just in bulk for resale.

So they are not some illegal/incompatible code that you won’t be able to use, not at all! The issue with them is that it is now against GS1’s rules for these codes to be bought and resold.

Does this mean that you cannot use these resellers at all and your only option is to pay £100s of pounds to GS1? Well not quite…

I have been researching this in great detail so that I can pass on the best advice to my blog readers, but I actually want to quote George Laurer on the topic (the creator of UPC codes!) as I think he sums it up very nicely:

“In the past I have told everyone that the only place to obtain a legitimate U.P.C. number is from the GS1 US (formerly UCC).

Since then I learned that there are several places where one can obtain a subset of a U.P.C. number issued to another company. GS1 US considers it is against their rules and inappropriate for a company to purchase a U.P.C. number from them and then resell subsets of the number to other people.

However, the rules were not codified in their license agreement until August of 2002, and therefore, if a company sells a subset of a number they obtained prior to August 2002, there is little recourse available to GS1 US.

Several companies are now selling numbers. They are a good alternative to buying from GS1 US, however, please read before you buy”.

And really that mirrors my own thoughts. It certainly isn’t definite that buying from these resellers won’t cause any problems in the future (what if they sell your code to someone else, what if they sell you an already used code etc.) but there are of course huge advantages in terms of cost or if you only need a small number of barcodes.

I’ve offered my advice but ultimately it’s up to you with what you decide to do here.

How to use your EAN codes?

Once you have purchased and received your codes, you can then use them right away.

If you’re selling on Amazon or need them for eBay’s Product Identifiers, then this is incredibly simple – all you have to do is enter the code when you’re listing a product. You don’t need to attach it to or label the actual products.

If however you’re selling to local B&M stores, as Nicki is planning, then you do need to have the EAN code on the actual product or product packaging.

But don’t fear, this is actually a very simple process, and there are a few different options for how to go about it:

  • Order labels from a printing company.

This is a very good option if you’re ordering just a few designs, but at very large volumes.

  • Use a Dymo label printer.

This method is great if you have a number of different products as you can print labels as and when needed and don’t need to order in bulk. You can of course use any label printer, but in terms of pricing and speed I can happily recommend the Dymo Labelwriter 450 as we personally print hundreds of labels a day using this, without any problems.

  • dymo-450-label-printerGet the codes printed directly to your product/product packaging in China.

This will only be a viable option if you’re getting an OEM order from China, which obviously means buying in real bulk.

From the 3 options, using a label printer is probably what I’d recommend as it’s simple, easy, reliable and actually quite cheap when you use compatible labels (as I always suggest).

Options 1 and 3 are good if you’re ordering in bulk, and between the two I’d probably suggest getting it done in China if possible, simply because it’s easier and will be more cost effective.

And I think that’s about it! We’ve covered what EAN codes are, who needs them and for what, where to buy them from, and finally how to actually use them.

If there is anything that I’ve missed out or something you’d like clarified further, then please don’t hesitate to post in the comments section below and I’ll personally get back to you in 24 hours, Monday to Friday.

Otherwise I’ll see you again on Wednesday, when I plan to post a quick guide on how to quickly and easily increase your sales for Christmas, while also improving your margins!

See you then!

All the best,

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  1. Hi Andrew hope doing well. Thanks for your useful informative blog. I have a question while listing a I need a EAN number and I guess amazon would generate a FNSKU against that EAN. Would that FNSKU be a barcode or number? Do I need to generate barcode or it would be by default generated one? How I will pass this to manufacture to print on packaging. I would appreciate for your brief reply. What is SKU and where we need that one. Many thanks muhammad

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Muhammad,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, Amazon will generate FNSKU number and also will provide a barcode for it. You simply send that PDF file with the FNSKU barcode to the manufacturer.

      SKU number is automatically generated by Amazon. You don’t need to do anything with it.


  2. Pavelas Mac

    Dear Andrew,

    I found your article incredibly helpful. I am even thinking on taking your courses as i have realized how much i need to learn!

    I have one question. My company is registered in UK and I have purchased EAN/UPC numbers as suggested in your article however EAN numbers comes with 0 at the beginning meaning the product is “manufactured” in USA? I am not clear if this EAN number will be accepted by Amazon in Europe?

    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Pavelas,

      Thanks for your comment.

      If you want to sell on Amazon, you need to get an account with GS1 and use genuine EAN codes (this is Amazon’s requirement).


  3. Mary-Anne Mills

    Thank you so much for this article. So incredibly helpful.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Mary-Anne! 🙂

  4. Carole McGillivray

    Hi Andrew. Just read your article as I was confused about the whole EAN thing.. Could you clarify a question for me (sorry about this – still not 100% sure what I need to do !) I buy plain silk scarves then hand dye them in lots of different colour variations and sell them on. At the moment I’m only doing them as and when I want to, or if someone asks me to do one for them. However, a local shop may be interested in selling my hand dyed scarves. Would I need to have a different EAN for each and every single scarf I do in each and every colourway, or would one EAN cover ALL the scarves I hand dye ? ie can I use the same EAN for each scarf ? Thanks for any help you can offer.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Carole,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It depends on the shop really – how sophisticated inventory management system they use?

      For example, if they just need the EAN code to scan the price of the item, ONE code for all variations will be fine. But if they use it for inventory management, they will want each SKU to have a unique EAN as otherwise, they can’t control stock levels.

      So your best bet is to simply ask the shop on what their needs are.

      Hope this helps! 🙂


  5. Hi Andrew
    This is a really useful article and I am researching the application of bar codes for an SME with around 150 different product lines. Am pretty sure I need to go down the GS1 route, but I am slightly confused by the costs. I understand the membership and the allowance of up to 1000 numbers, but does this mean that there are additional costs if I then want these numbers with a bar code? The membership is just for the generation of the numbers? The GS1 site states that bar codes images then cost (for example) 50 for £350 – how do I get a number with a bar code for printing ourselves in the best way?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You can create barcode images totally for free using special software or even free online websites like:


      You def. don’t have to pay for that! 🙂


  6. I have some Officially Licensed products that I buy from a UK company who has had the products manufactured under license granted by the Trade Mark owner.
    Given some recent experience of genuine product listings being deactivated and being reported as counterfeit I am concerned that should I issue barcodes from my number range the Trade Mark owner or some automated system will flag up the products as counterfeit.
    In this situation how would you suggest I proceed?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Colin,

      I don’t think the system flags it based on EAN codes… I think it comes down to brand names and keywords used.

      I don’t have any advice though as I don’t deal with 3rd party branded goods (only my own branded goods).



    Hi Andrew

    Thank You for the post. I am currently in the process of branding a product manufactured in China and would like to sell on Amazon UK initially. I have designed the product packaging and ready to send it to manufacturer to print and package product before shipping to UK. The manufacture has advised that they can stick on their UPC barcodes labels to the product as it comes in various sizes. Could you please advise
    1. How do I check if the UPC barcodes are legit to sell on Amazon? or do I need get GTNI barcode from GS1 to have my listing accepted in Amazon?
    2. When creating listing do I put in Manufactures details or my details as I am only branding manufacturer’s product and selling on Amazon?
    Thank You

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      1) I strongly recommend that you join GS1 and get legit codes under your company name. This is what Amazon states in their rules and the only way to be 100% sure there won’t be any problems with this in the future.

      2) Your own details of course.


  8. Afternoon Andrew

    Thank you so much for this really useful explanation and I apologise if my next question is an absolute fundamental one however this is all very new to me. I hand make a product and a shop has asked for me to apply a bar code EAN to read on their tills.
    My question is – do I need just one Bar code for that product regardless of which shop I then sell it to, I can reuse for other shops going forward?
    I then have say a bargain pack of 3 of the same product – I would I need a further code for that?
    Apologises in advance for the rudimentary question -but thank you so much in advance for any guidance
    Best wishes and great blog thanks Elisabeth

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Elisabeth,

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Yes, one code for each unique product you sell. It will be the same code for every “unit” of the product, be it 10 or 1000 – the code doesn’t change from shop to shop for the same product.

      Yes, you will need a different code for EACH variation/size/weight etc. as each code will represent that particular SKU.

      Hope this helps Elisabeth and let me know if I can help you with anything else.


  9. Hi Andrew
    Thanks for the informative piece.
    Is there a website to test an EAN code to make sure it isn’t being used elsewhere?
    Once an EAN is bought does the product brand and ID need to registered anywhere so when it is scanned by stores it identifies the product (or do stores do this themselves)?
    Are the above reseller recommendations reliable without issue of duplicate EANs?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sam,

      Yes, you can check whatever a number is registered directly on the GS1 website:


      No, stores will “input” the code/price information in their system on their own. They really use this for price and inventory, they don’t care about other attributes it comes with.

      I do not recommend using re-sellers anymore, not for Amazon sellers. Amazon requires sellers to use GS1 directly and that’s what you should do.


  10. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for a great overview of the topic, I didn’t know what an EAN was 5 minutes ago!.

    One question, I’m looking into building custom computers which can have hundreds of bespoke configurations, how far down the EAN rabbit hole would I need to go – would a single EAN suffice if I use the same case, main board, CPU type etc. but different optional internals or would I need a different EAN for each bespoke configuration (i.e. different CPU speed, graphics cards, memory options, disk sizes etc.) – all components have their own EAN’s.

    so I know I’m going to need EAN’s but how many is my question?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Marcus,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Why do you need those EAN’s in the first place? Do you want to sell all those configurations on Amazon?


      1. Hi Andrew,

        Yes potentially on Amazon and direct.

        Thanks for the Amazon selling video for signing up, very useful, does TeraPeak being now owned by eBay have any significance?

        Thanks, again,


        1. Andrew Minalto

          Hi Marcus,

          If you register with Amazon Brand Registry, you can ask Amazon to allow you to not use EAN codes for your products.

          If that not possible, yes, you will need a unique EAN code for each and every final version/configuration you will sell.

          Yes, Terapeak is owned by eBay now. But no, its still same tool and functionality. At least for now.


          1. Marcus

            Thanks Andrew,

            That’s pretty much the conclusion I’d come to.

            There is value in branding the systems within ranges, and having different options within each range, the EAN problem is that each option would need its own EAN for minor configuration differences (i.e. two systems with identical builds with different memory, i.e. an 8GB, 16GB and 32GB option) – each would require a different EAN if my thinking is correct.

            In the short term the 1000 EANs will be more than adequate for the limited ranges I have in mind as standard offerings, but will easily be used up for customised one-to-one customer builds – Do you have an idea of the costs above 1000 EAN’s by chance?, a ball park figure for now will give me an idea of the costs before I research it in more depth.

            Thanks again you’ve been really helpful

            I’ll make sure to use your links to Terapeak and Jungle scout and chrome tool when I sign up,


          2. Andrew Minalto

            I don’t know exact costs but it should be cheaper than the first 1000 codes 🙂

            So that means each extra code will cost you less than 15p, which is not a lot…


  11. Eileen HINKEN

    Hi, not sure if you can help but I purchased a product with unknown code (X000VBZGPZ).
    As the format did not match standard EAN format and I had concerns about fake goods I searched for the product’s actual EAN.
    This is L’Oreal hair product so concerned about using it until I could clarify it was a genuine product.
    This was purchased on Amazon but seller unlikely to confirm if there is an issue. Next step was to contact Amazon or L’oreal themselves but after reading your article I thought you might have an insight into discrepancy before I tried other avenues.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Eileen,

      Wasn’t that an overlay sticker onto actual EAN barcode?

      As that code, you sent, looks as typical FNSKU code Amazon uses for warehousing purposes.

      If it’s a L’oreal product, the actual EAN code is probably is just covered up!


  12. Hi Andrew
    Thanks for the info. I am selling children’s clothes. Do I need a barcode for each item of the same size or can I use the same one each time? So e.g a green jumper size 3 months is always the same barcode? Whereas it would change for 6months? Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ruth,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, exactly – you use unique barcode for each SKU but it stays same all the time – same code for all pieces. Just think if EAN code as unique identifier for each product version (SKU) you sell.


  13. Thanks Andrew very simplified for us laymen out there trying to rub two pennies together.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Abdul!

  14. Paul Mitchell

    hi Andrew

    What would happen if we have listings and then don’t pay GS1 for the following year.
    How would Amazon know?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Paul,

      Amazon probably wouldn’t find out…. at least at the moment, they don’t have any automated ways/systems of knowing this.

      Maybe in future they will work closer with GS1 on this.


  15. Thanks so much for your blog. Before finding , I was stuck and getting no where . I now have my product listed . Thanks so much for taking the time to write it.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      No problem, you’re welcome David! 🙂

  16. Hi Andrew,

    My situation is this:
    – I take products from China and import them locally.
    – I then sell the products to re-sellers, and they buy them from my company in large quantities at once.
    – given the B2B scenario, most of my products have a minimum order quantity that is usually representative of a set, or a box full of single-item products that the re-seller will then sell individually.
    – I am now in the process of acquiring an ERP software and it was recommended to me that I don’t use SKUs as they are “ancient”, and that I use EANs instead to describe products.

    All good, but if I sell a box of products at once, can I use an EAN to define an entire box containing individual products, given that I’m selling the whole box to a re-seller? Or an EAN to define a set of products that I’m selling in a permanent bundle? (also using separate EANs to describe each individual item as well).

    I hope you understand my question, I couldn’t find an answer anywhere… and everyone seems to talk about EANs used exclusively for retail sales where the buyers take one item at a time…

    Thank you in advance for an opinion on this!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, of course you can do that! You can use EAN codes for boxes/bundles – whatever you can!

      There are even special EAN registration process for boxes of goods, more info you will find in your GS1 account.


  17. I’m planning to start selling on Amazon and was struggling to understand all the UPC / EAN jargon until this post! Thank you very much!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Sajad! 🙂

  18. Richard Arnott

    Hi Andrew,

    A very useful article, well done.

    The whole point of a barcode is to identify the product. If you buy codes from vendors then how do you register your product? Indeed could it be the case that such barcodes have been pre-registered for totally different items.

    GS1 should have a much more cost effective solution for small businesses so that everyone can play by the same rules.



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, I agree Richard.

      GS1 in the UK is relatively cheap though – in some other countries the price is 2 times and even 3 times higher.


  19. Thank you so much. Very useful article.
    I can see lots of online free barcode generator for EAN and UPC. Would that work?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re probably referring just to VISUAL barcode generator – when you enter a number and they will create a barcode graphics for you.

      They will work, yes, but you still need a valid number to use those tools.


  20. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for publishing a superbly written and very helpful article. However, I do have one/two questions.

    Selling, say storage jars, I know that If you are part of Amazon’s Brand Registry 2.0, you can switch over from FNSKU’s to model numbers within Amazon, but:

    1. Forgetting Amazon, I imagine that I would legally need EAN numbers for my SKU’s, selling through anyone else like Ebay, B&M/Online resellers etc. Is that correct?

    2. But what if you were just selling through Amazon with Brand registry/model numbers and directly to end-users, but not to other retailers. Do you still need EAN’s then?

    I would greatly appreciate if you could let me know.

    Thank you, Andrew,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. Well, not legally but simply technically – yes, you would need EAN codes/barcodes to get into all other selling channels, yes.

      2. No, in that case you don’t need EAN numbers.


  21. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks a lot for your very helpful post!

    My first OEM products to sell on Amazon are in production and I have already joined GS1 and assigned EANs to the products. My supplier has agreed to print/sticker barcodes on the products’ packages. As I will use the Amazon FBA Fulfilment must we have the EANs on the packages or it is a better option print and sticker the FNSKU labels instead? Or do I need to do both?

    Many thanks for your help,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Flavia,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You need just one – either EAN or FNSKU. I will do a more detailed post on how both set-ups work but usually people put the FNSKU code/label on the product, not EAN code. (You still need EAN code to create your listing on Amazon).

      FNSKU codes are basically safer to use on Amazon as then your stock won’t get mixed up with any other seller. On the other hand, I use EAN codes a lot on products that I also distribute in offline World as EAN codes will work for retail shops too, while FNSKU – just on Amazon.

      But to keep things simple, just use FNSKU codes/labels on products or packaging.


      1. Thank you! looking forward to your next post.

  22. Hi Andrew,

    great info as always.

    I buy small items amd them sell them in packs of 6, 10 , 20 etc.

    So ive gone ahead and subbed to GS1.

    I was hoping that allocating these GTINs would enable reviews to be left on my listings but nothing has happened yet. Are you aware of time period that you must wait or must i wait for sales for the GTINs to be linked with the items?

    I gotta say that your eab was the single best resource out there.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Daniel,

      No, sorry, I don’t have an answer for that.

      I don’t sell on eBay anymore so don’t really know if they have changed any rules recently on this.


  23. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you so much for all the info you post online. It’s been so useful!

    I just watched your new Amazon is the way to go video and your sharks program starting in January.

    Just wanted to know if at this stage you would recommend to join GS1 UK even for people that’s just starting like me. I know it’s a big investment, but I want to do things right on amazon and I’m starting with my own branded product, so feeling it will pay off..

    Thank you for your time,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Carlos,

      It is a good question…

      Many people do use re-seller codes and right now they work and there are no problems using them.

      However we don’t know really how this will change in future so I personally would recommend using GS1, yes.

      Then there’s one thing less to worry about! 🙂


      1. Thank you 🙂

  24. Hi I wonder if you can help me I am trying to find out when a product was taken to market, does a barcode store this information, or can you tell me how I may find out this information please.
    regards Pete

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Pete,

      No, barcode won’t store that information, no.


  25. Lynn Thompson


    Firstly, thank you for your informative website!

    As a relative newly just building my online business up slowly I have decided to try my hand at selling on Amazon.

    A lot of the items I sell involve fabric that I purchase and make into smaller parcels for quilters. I’m trying to figure out if I need to have an EAN number. I would really like to start off properly but can’t seem to get a definitive answer from anywhere.

    Thank you,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lynn,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, of course – for each product you will list on Amazon, you’ll need an EAN number.

      Please check this post for more information:



  26. Magdalena Leszczynska

    With EAN number what is the process of generating them looks like? Do you need to upload photo of the product and item descriptions?
    What else do they require?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      No, no need for photos 🙂

      You’ll be able simply to create/add new products by name in the GS1 online account and get EAN codes there.

      Basically it ask for product name, packaging type and some other basic info.


  27. Hi Andrew,

    My company start selling juices and drinks through my own website, based in UK, most of the products are produced in EU manufacturers out of UK with our brand.

    Can you advice what kind of barcode do I need to print on my product labels, is it necessary to be bar code from manufacturer or I can bay new barcode from UK.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Martin,

      If it’s your own brand, it would only make sense to register with GS1 and get your own EAN codes to use on your products.


  28. Hi Andrew,
    Great article!

    I have a couple of questions that I would appreciate if you can clarify them.
    As you mentioned at the end is up to us to decide if we use or not these resellers.

    Barcdodestalks.co.uk claims that all their barcodes were bought before 2002 in that case it shouldn’t be any legal problem, they bought them directly from GS1- USA therefore all their EAN barcodes start with 0 which is the US country code.

    Could this represent a problem because the country code for the UK is 500- 509?

    Is it mandatory that EAN codes used in the UK most start with the UK code (500 o 509) or can barcodes start we any other country code as in this case the US code?

    We are a new start up toy brand and we don’t need 1000 barcodes which is what GS1 UK offers in return for the annual and join fee.
    I also guessing the barcodes that GS1 UK offers start with the UK country code.

    Kind Regards

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Eduardo,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, GS1 UK codes will start with the UK country code.

      As for genuine USA codes – they should work ok. There are no laws that prohibit use of such codes BUT I don’t know whatever Amazon has any rules regarding this – something you will need to find out (in case you want to use these codes on Amazon UK).


  29. Hi! I bought and still own a UPC# from 1998. I heard that with this type of bar code, I can make 100,000 codes with my prefix. Is this true? Can I sell bar codes or can I sell my GS1 Company Prefix Certificate since I am no longer making a product that requires bar codes? Who would I contact?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lora,

      I have heard of something like this to be true, yes, but I don’t have personal experience so can’t comment on it really.

      Your best bet is to contact GS1 in your country and confirm with them.


  30. Julie McGrath

    Hi Andrew Sorry if you have already received an unfinished copy of this mail !!
    I bought a business package from Peter Thatcher of Jelt Publishing consisting of DVD’s which I want to sell on Amazon. tried to list it in my seller a/c yesterday but haven’t got an i/d number–asin or ean . when I asked Peter for one he referred me to your website. As I am not the manufacturer and Peter is selling them on to me who is responsible for supplying the code ???

    Will be very grateful for any advice you can give me Thanks Julie

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Julie,

      You’re responsible for getting that code as you want to sell product on Amazon 🙂

      Product creator/manufacturer is not obligated to use an EAN/UPC code.


      1. Julie McGrath

        Thanks Andrew
        That’s fine Julie

  31. Hi Andrew, great article! I’ll be starting to sell on Amazon under my own label of women’s fashion accessories and wondering now whether if there any extra cost behind joining Gs1? such as implementation, maintenance and other technical expenses associated to it. I’m also considering to open a physical store where I plan to sell products from other brands as well, do I have to pay more to Gs1 in order to access their database as a retail store or, it is included on a third party POS?,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jacob,

      No, there are no extra costs there apart from the yearly membership fee.

      When you join, you can simply add your products in GS1 data base (online) and get EAN numbers. Then you can start printing them, using on packaging etc.

      And no, as a retail store you don’t need to be a member of GS1.


  32. Hi Andrew, thanks for this brilliant post ! I have gained a lot from your website while setting up my business. I have setup my own website selling men’s accessories (all made in Italy) and now want to start an Amazon channel as well. Now, although the manufacturer is an established one, they do not have barcodes or EAN codes on their products ! I confirmed it with them and they said I would need to get my own codes. It might be due the fact they mostly manufacture for other big brands and their own sales are quite small. After reading this article and few of the comments below, I took a step back – I was about to buy EAN codes from Ebay (50 for £2). I do not own the brand or trademark (I have purchased products from their authorised distributor in UK), I simply need a code to list my products. Although some products from this brand are already available on Amazon, I guess I cannot use their EAN codes. Since this would be my first listing on Amazon I want to be careful about not using codes which might get disapproved by Amazon. Would you be able to confirm if codes purchased from resellers are ok to be used on Amazon ? Thanks !

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi AJ,

      Please check out this post answering your question in detail:



  33. Hi Andrew, Thanks for very informative and easy to read article. I still have a question though! We are a new small business and have a brand and logo (trademark) and will sell our products via our own website, amazon and hopefully to retailers in near future. I just bought 50 barcodes, but now I’m confused how should I allocate them to my products and register them, so buyers in UK or Europe would recognise us as the seller! I appreciate your advice.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Shirly,

      As I explained in the article, safest way to do this is by registering with the GS1.

      Then you know 100% that it’s safe to use your codes on Amazon and there’s no risk of Amazon taking down your listings in future.


  34. hi Andrew,

    your post was very informative.
    looking on the net there are various websites that offer free EAN codes e.g, Barcodesinc.com, Barcode.tec-it.com, Barcodegenerator.org, etc. Are there any legal implications in using these codes?
    The reason i ask is that one of our customers as requested that we start using barcodes on our deliveries to assist their booking in process and advised us to use Barcode.tec-it.com free barcodes.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Marc,

      Barcodes can be anything – any text, number combination you make up. Barcodes simply “convert” that info into scannable format.

      They’re not EAN codes. EAN codes are special product identifiers issued by GS1.


  35. Paul-Francis Law

    I bought a batch of EAN barcodes from a reseller about a year ago in order to be able to con tinue with my eBay store. They seem to work fine.

    However, today when I put one code into a google search I came up with a website that is selling one of my products, using my EAN, my item description, and my product photos – all without permission. As I am the manufacturer and sole distributor oif the product in question, the item on this other website is obviously a fake. Is there anything I can do about this?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your email.

      Is that product branded with your own brand? And you have trademarked that brand/logo?


      1. Paul-Francis Law

        I have taken no steps to register a brand, beyond entering my company name in the ‘brand’ part of MPNs on my eBay store.

        1. Andrew Minalto

          But is that product BRANDED? It has your logo on it?

          1. Paul-Francis Law

            No, there is no logo.

          2. Andrew Minalto

            Then I’m afraid there’s not much you can do.

            You can of course write them an email/message and ask them to take it down.

            You own images, so they can’t use them BUT to take any legal action against them, you’ll need legal help.


          3. Paul-Francis Law

            Dear Andrew,

            Thanks for your help. It has made things a lot clearer. I was under the mistaken impression earlier that by ‘owning’ an EAN you had some legal claim to the exclusive use of it,. but this is evidently not the case.

  36. Hello,

    I’ve been scouring the internet for some information, and I think I’ve gotten close with your article!

    I understand that a UPC can be used in countries normally accepting EAN’s, but I’m looking for information on the REVERSE scenario.

    My company, in the USA, has a sister company in the UK. We are planning on selling the sister company’s goods in the USA. These goods are labeled with an EAN, with a leading digit/country code of 5. Are USA brick and mortar stores capable of selling these goods at POS as marked (with a EAN, leading digit 5)?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Karen,

      I’m, not 100% sure on this but common sense tells that it should be ok?

      I mean – there are tons of products made in the EU/UK that are imported into the US and sold via shops, right? And it works for them.

      Unless in the US you use totally different systems and all products need to be re-labeled to be sold in the US, with different codes?

      EAN is 13 digits while UPC only 12 but from what I understand, modern POS systems will recognise both.


  37. Chris Chamberlain

    Hi Andrew
    I’ve read quite a few articles regarding this subject but none as lucid as yours. Thanks very much.
    I wonder if I could get clarification on something though. I did in fact buy 20 codes from a re-seller a while back (haven’t used them yet) in the UK, and the numbers start with a 7 which I believe is actually for the US. I only sell online currently and only to Japan and Amazon Japan (other peoples’ products). I am making 20 of my own products, no more. than that. GS1 told me that if I buy from a re-seller the info attached to those numbers will always be the info of the first company that purchased them and never my own company. A little odd seeing as they are licensed and not bought outright. They said this could have a negative affect on my business if i sell in a bricks and mortar shop. Can you see any reason according to my business model why I shouldn’t use the resold codes? The labels I plan to use are very small and GS1 said if I want 8 digit numbers I will have to pay them another £163 per year, plus one pound of flesh. Thanks very much

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Chris,

      Yes, GS1 is correct on this one. The first digits of code is country, then followed by unique digits for each GS1 member. So essentially codes you buy from re-sellers “belong” to some other company.

      For online use though it does not make any difference as they are basically used as unique product identifiers and nothing else.


  38. Hi Andrew,

    Are GS1 codes required for all items sold on Amazon if I am the manufacturer or are there certain products that do not require them?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Joe,

      Yes, EAN codes are required to list any product on Amazon.


  39. Hi Andy you mention the benefits on adding EANs to ebay and Amazon marketplaces however I was wondering about our own websites, would you update your websites with EAN numbers? If so what would be the benefits? I notice my 3DCart store has an option for EAN,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, if you have these codes, you should add them to your online shop too.

      We mostly do this to be able to use barcode scanner effectively when processing orders, doing inventory checks etc.


  40. Hi Andy, if I have two branded shops on ebay selling the same product should I be using two different EAN codes for the same product? Thabks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mark,

      You should use two different EAN codes, yes.

      IN fact, what you’re doing is AGAINST eBay rules. You can’t sell exact same item using different accounts. They may punish you by lowering your rankings as in their eyes these are duplicate listings.


  41. […] So if you sell un-branded/your own brand products on eBay, don’t select the ‘Does Not Apply” option in the product identifier field! Get yourself EAN codes following my EAN numbers guide here. […]

  42. Hi Andrew,

    We are a B2B company selling to online retailers and are being asked to supply EANs to them so they can comply with Google’s new listing directives.

    As we sell the same product to many retailers is there any danger in supplying the same EAN to each retailer, or is there a reason to produce different EANs each time? (or should we tell each retailer they need to produce their own EANs for our products)?

    I just want to be sure each retailer can’t have access to any key/sensitive info if they share the same EANs issued by us?

    Which option would be best for Google rankings: 100 retailers listing 100 of the same product listed with the same EAN, or 100 of the same product listed with 100 different EANs (as an example)?

    Best regards,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi James,

      That’s a very good question.

      Unfortunately I don’t know answer to it… Logic says that if it’s the same product, it should have same EAN BUT on the other hand, it may work against your customers in Google.

      I haven’t been in a situation like this so I recommend you do some more research online and see what you can find.


      1. james Appleyard

        Hi Andrew,

        Thanks for the reply – appreciate you responding and yes, I will do more research!

        Best regards,


        1. Andrew Minalto

          You’re welcome James!

  43. Hello Andrew,

    I am an UK reseller and I recently bought some EAN’s and started using them so far so good.

    Then I asked my self and started researching if I had to allocate different codes for each variation on my list.

    Couldn’t find any clear response on my searches. Any help with that please ?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Leonardo,

      Yes, each main variation level will have it’s own unique EAN code.


      1. Colin Bates

        I like your information and the style of your responses.
        I sell printed Tee Shirts of my own unique designs in various sizes.
        Can I use 1 EAN for all 5 Shirts of the same design or do I need 5 EAN’s ?
        I have always assumed 5 EAN’s but now the numbers I bought last year from EAN.co.uk seem useless as they are not GS1 and I am hoping I don’t need so many as GS1 is relatively expensive for me.

        1. Andrew Minalto

          Hi Colin,

          You will need a unique EAN for each design AND each size too.

          Basically you need a unique EAN for each unique SKU you sell.

          This probably means you will need LOTS of codes so joining GS1 will be the best/cheapest option for you.


  44. Amazon now say in their listing small print they will be checking EAN’s are genuine. They threaten to remove your listings and or suspend the account if found not to be. It also begs the question how many pre 2002 barcodes are left out there?
    Looks like there is no option other than to use GS1.
    Can this blog be updated once someone looks at Amazons T&C on new product listings?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Justin,

      I am a member of GS1, the yearly fee really is not that bad. But for many small time/newbie sellers, buying individual codes is the only way to go.

      I don’t know what Amazon mean by checking if they’re genuine – does it mean they have to be issued to seller by GS1?


      1. Hiya,
        Is it not the case that you log the database on GS1 what you use the barcode for?
        Therefore AMZ can validate against that.

        1. Andrew Minalto

          Yes, that’s how it works.

          Question is – does Amazon actually checks this? I have never heard of any problems with re-seller codes on Amazon…


          1. Justin

            Yes I know Andrew, Problem is I want to establish a long term UK product line on Amazon. Such is the item the Manufacturer does not have barcodes registered. The other seller has their own. And the impact of Amazons threat in the attached help link seems very real. Just tough for my initial cash flow but then I guess it is to discourage messers.

          2. Andrew Minalto

            well, I have always recommended to play 100% safe and simply join GS1.

            If you’re in this for a long term, you will feel much better & safer if you get your own codes.


  45. Hi Andrew,

    Great post thank you!

    Question – I’m looking to sell jewellery and clothing on Amazon sourced from wholesalers and manufacturers in Turkey and Asia who don’t have EANs for their products. They sell the same products to other buyers so I can’t class myself as an owner/manufacturer of these goods. Should I still obtain my own EANs for these items? I’m stumped at the moment!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Richard,

      Yes, you should still obtain your own EAN numbers and use for eBay/Amazon selling.


      1. Sorry, did you mean EAN numbers as well as an EORI number?

        1. Andrew Minalto

          Sorry, I meant EAN numbers 🙂

  46. hi Andrew. I’ve recently purchased ean numbers for my eBay store. I sell unbranded items but I was told by Ebay it’s better in Google if I have ean numbers. I found that uk should start with 50 but mine are all starting with 70 which is apparently Norway. ive already added these ean numbers to over 350 items in my store before noticing this. I’m from the UK. does this really matter?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Nic,

      No, I don’t think it matters Nic – eBay at least do not sort them for ranking or other purposes by the issuer country.

      So I think you’re fine.


  47. Hi Andrew, I supply personalised wedding products that I create from scratch, and seed paper in packs – I buy the paper in bulk and sell off in packs. The manufacturer doesnt supply an EAN number and alot of the time the paper is made to order for me. I have no brand. So do EAN numbers apply to me? It’s all rather confusing! Thanks!

    I also resell wedding products that I buy in – do I need numbers for them do you know?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Teresa,

      You should be able to select “Does not Apply” EAN code when listing your item but people are reporting that it doesn’t work.

      So not sure what’s going on, probably best to contact eBay directly and ask them.


  48. Hi Andrew,

    Hope you can help me, I import mobile phone cases from chine and sell them on eBay under a business account. I have recieved the email from eBay advising that it will be mandotary and was just wondering will I need theses codes as I can’t afford to get them or can I just add Does not apply?
    Thank you for all your great help.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sarah,

      You should be able to add ‘Does not apply” if your products don’t come with EAN codes.

      Not sure though whatever it will hurt these listings in search or not…


  49. Hi Andrew

    What’s your opinion on Ebay’s search rankings when it come to EAN codes?

    Do Ebay listings with EAN codes (GTIN) rank higher in Best Match than those without?

    Ebay say its good practice to upload EAN to older existing listings but is it worth doing this to get an advantage?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Dean,

      Thanks for your comment.

      eBay already requires by default that you add EAN codes to many categories & products:


      As for un-branded items and categories where EAN is not required – I don’t think it affects search that much but it’s very hard to say as there are simply too many variables in Best Match algorithm.


  50. Hi Andrew

    Thank you for your blog post, this information is very helpful and does answer all my questions. However, can you confirm whether I would need the EAN barcodes for selling on eBay, when I am classed as the manufacturer?

    I understand I would need them to sell on Amazon and to retailers, but not completely clear for eBay?

    Many thanks


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Nicki,

      No, at the moment you don’t need EAN codes on eBay if you sell un-branded products.


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