Barcode Format

Most countries worldwide (including Australia) prefer retail barcodes to be in 13 digit EAN-13 format, therefore this is the format that we usually provide (unless otherwise requested). Our EAN-13 barcode numbers start with a leading “0” – e.g. 0799439112766. However these EAN-13 barcode numbers can be turned into 12 digit UPC-A barcode numbers simply by removing the leading “0” (e.g. 799439112766). The vertical black bars and spaces remain exactly the same because the leading “0” doesn’t change the bars in any way. The barcode will scan exactly the same whether it is in EAN-13 or UPC-A format, the only difference is the barcode number printed below the bars (see the picture below).












You can see from the example images above that the barcode bars and spaces are exactly the same in both UPC-A and EAN-13 format. However this only happens when the barcode starts with a leading “0” in EAN-13 format (because the check digit at the end stays the same & doesn’t need to be recalculated if the “0” is removed). If the EAN-13 format barcode starts with a different leading number (e.g. a “1”) then the check digit at the end of the barcode number would change when it was re-formatted to a UPC-A barcode – and the bars/spaces would change accordingly as well to reflect the new barcode number.

EAN-13 vs UPC-A – what is the difference?

Please note that EAN-13 is the preferred retail barcode format in Australia and most parts of the world. The 12 digit UPC-A format is only preferred in the USA and Canada. However all barcode scanners (and retail barcode systems) worldwide can easily cope with either format of barcode. If we have supplied your barcodes in EAN-13 format, and you want UPC-A format instead (or as well) we are happy to supply these for free, just contact us to request this. Contact us if you have any queries. You can order barcodes in either format (UPC or EAN) here.

Leading “0”

Some retailers have inventory systems that don’t like barcode numbers with a leading “0”, therefore they will prefer to use your barcode in the 12 digit UPC-A format (eg 799439112766). This is completely acceptable – the barcode number is still essentially the same (as the leading “0” is ignored in the vertical black/bars spaces anyway) and will work fine. Leave it up to your retailers to decide whether they want to enter your barcode number into their system as a 13 digit or 12 digit number – whatever they prefer is completely fine. Your retailer might find that the first time they scan your barcode number, their system displays it as a 12 digit number (ignoring the leading “0”) but if they enter the barcode number manually into their system instead (when connecting it to your product details) their system will display the leading “0” with no problems.