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Bar Code Standards: Oh, Don't Bother

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Bar Code Standards: Oh, Don't Bother

It's so much easier to blame someone else than actually read the standard

Bert Moore
Editor

A recent article in a retail-oriented publication claimed that the use of GS1 DataBar™ on coupons would likely lead to more coupon fraud in the short term. Why do they claim that? Purportedly it's because some of the manufacturers printing GS1 DataBar symbols on coupons aren't complying with GS1 standards, resulting in such variability in the expiration date format that the expiration date field is, according to the article, "unusable for practical applications".

This is not good. But who is to blame? According to one source quoted in the article, part of the problem lies with GS1, supposedly "for making its standards so complex and expensive to acquire that manufacturers would rather guess at what a proper coupon looks like than pay a consultant."

They'd rather guess? Access to GS1 standards is free to companies that have a GS1 vendor ID. But even if there were a separate fee for the standards, why would a manufacturer even want to try to "guess" what the proper data format should be? And, if coupon fraud is so costly, what is the cost of fraud compared to the cost of hiring a consultant?

The purpose of this column isn't to debate the statements in the article but to point out that standards, while they may be complex at times, are there for a reason. That reason is to ensure that bar codes -- whether complying with GS1 standards or standards for applications ranging from aerospace to war fighting materiel -- are readable, and the data useable, at virtually every location they're suppose to be read.

Publication date:  June 2011

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