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All your questions about product identification and GTINs for marketplaces answered

Marketplaces

Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Google Shopping all now call for sellers to include a product identifier on all their listings. This requirement has caused some confusion for online sellers on what they need to do and why.

So here you'll find answers to all the questions we're frequently asked. And if your question isn't here, then just get in touch with us.

What is GS1?

GS1 is a neutral and not-for-profit global organisation, with offices in 112 countries. We were formed by industry, coming together to create a system and common standard for the unique identification of products. Various sectors, from retailmarketplaces and healthcare and search engines too, have requested that their trading partners use GS1 standards, as they see the clear benefit of a single global system of unique product identification.
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Who regulates GS1 UK?

As a not-for-profit organisation, GS1 UK is owned by our members, who are in turn represented by a Supervisory Board of elected members. This board is representative of the industries we work in. We are regulated by the board who meet throughout the year, and our Annual General Meeting, which all members are invited to attend. We also have Advisory Boards made up of members from our major sectors. You can help us to understand the specific needs of marketplace sellers by getting in touch with us, so we can create a steering group to help you more.
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How does your pricing model work?

As a not-for-profit organisation, we believe that the fairest fee structure is one based on turnover. This means that that larger businesses pay more than smaller or new businesses to support the ongoing development and maintenance of the GS1 System. So, if you're a new or small business, you're paying our lowest fees. See our membership benefits page for further details on pricing.
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Why can't marketplaces pay the membership fees?

By having your own membership with GS1 UK, you manage your own product identifiers (or GTINs) for your brand and business, which you can use to sell through any marketplace and any channel. A marketplace is just one channel. Product owners are responsible for their products and their information, while marketplaces are responsible for providing a platform to present this data and to help sell products. Our members tell it is vital to be able to protect and control how their products are represented online and through all the channels they sell through.
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Do you have a centralised product registry?

We have a global registry that shows the registered owner of any GTIN. It’s called the Global Electronic Party Information Registry – or GEPIR for short! This data is used by marketplaces to validate a GTIN and to connect products to the brand owner.
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How do I get just one number?

At the moment, this is not possible, except for specific cases of small music or charity organisations. We are reviewing our membership model though, to keep pace with the changing needs of our members.
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Am I just paying for a bunch of random numbers?

GTINs are not "random numbers" – they are made up of four elements:
* The GS1 country that issued the number
* A unique identifier for the company that licences the number
* A unique product identifier
* A check digit to ensure integrity

Also, your membership fee covers many things, including managing the integrity of the global GS1 System, engagement with strategic companies to drive greater usage and value from GS1 standards, and supporting all our members and industry to improve efficiency and reduce costs within their businesses. We do far more than just issue "random numbers!
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Why do I have to have a new Global Company Prefix (or CGP) when I get a new batch of numbers?

A GTIN usually consists of 13 digits. The first 7 to 9 digits are your Global Company Prefix (GCP) – which you license from GS1. The length of the prefix determines how many numbers you receive – the shorter the GCP, the more numbers you get. The last digit of the GTIN is always a check digit, calculated automatically to ensure integrity. So, the remaining digits in the middle are used to uniquely identify your products – and these form your GTIN range. Once you exhaust the numbers within your current range, it’s impossible to add more numbers beginning with the same prefix. Therefore, a new prefix is issued. You can learn more about the GS1 Company Prefix here.
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Why should I pay for GTINs, surely the manufacturer should do this?

We always advise that the brand owner should issue a GTIN against each product they have to ensure it can be traced back to the correct source. If you have outsourced your manufacturing then you are still the ultimate brand owner, so you should allocate the GTINs to your products.
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Can I re-use numbers allocated to me?

In retail, GTINs can be re-used four years after the original product is discontinued. Some marketplaces, however, keep a record of all the GTINs ever entered into their catalogue, so in this case re-use would not be possible. As a result, the four-year rule is currently under review, and will shortly be updated. You can read more about managing your GTINs.
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Can a product have more than one GTIN?

A product should only ever have one GTIN allocated to it, although a different GTIN may need to be allocated when the product or branding changes. Read more about managing your GTINs and when to allocate a new one.
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Who polices the use of GTINs?

GS1 license GTINs to brand owners and we work with retailers and marketplaces to validate the correct use of GTINs to ensure the integrity of the system.
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Can I buy GS1 numbers and sell them on to other retailers?

GTINs are licensed by GS1, they are never sold. The ownership of the numbers therefore remains with GS1 and the numbers issued to a member cannot be sold to another company. This ensures the ongoing integrity of the system, for the benefit of everyone.
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If I have a product in front of me without any visible GTIN, how do I find out what its GTIN is?

The GTIN is always shown beneath the product barcode. If there isn’t one then you can use the product name to search for the GTIN online. If you find a GTIN then you can check if it’s valid using the Global Electronic Party Information Registry – or GEPIR. This will bring up the company and product name if it's a genuine number, as well as the country that issued the number.
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I have custom-made products and someone else is selling a similar product and using my GTIN, what can I do?

On Amazon, always make sure you register your branded products on the Amazon brand registry – this gives you control over the listing and will make it easier for you to get incorrectly listed products removed. On other marketplaces you will need to report an infringement and resolve it with them as two different products shouldn't be using the same GTIN. Marketplaces are cleaning their catalogue of these scenarios as it damages customer trust if the wrong product is received. In any other case, contact us and we can investigate further.
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I bought GTINs somewhere else, why should I (and can I) update my marketplace listing with GTINs from GS1?

A GTIN should always be traceable back to the brand owner. If you buy a GTIN from a reseller this will never be the case as the number will either be made up or registered to another company. If you want to sell your products in retail stores, the GTIN will be checked and your products will be rejected as the GTIN will not be registered to you. If you have the product listed in Amazon's brand registry then yes, you can update this. And on eBay, it can be updated at any time too.
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Do GTINs on marketplaces really make a difference with search engine traffic?

GS1 cannot control the way marketplaces are set up, how search engine algorithms are written or how SEO works – but we know that product identifiers are used to track products and their data. We also have a new standard – GS1 SmartSearch – that makes it easier for your products to be described online and discovered through search engines. Although there is no silver bullet for SEO that will get you to first place, using product identifiers is a requirement for many marketplaces. It’s about fulfilling as many requirements as possible to ensure the best possible listing on marketplaces and search engines.
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Why should I license a GTIN if other retailers can then use it?

If you hold the GTINs for all your products then you are the registered brand and company for all your products. So, when other retailers list your products they can always be traced back to you, as the rightful owner.
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I don't want reviews for other sellers appearing against my eBay listings so I don't use GTINs. Am I right to do this?

There are two types of reviews - seller and product. GTINs should only link product reviews and if the review is referencing a seller then you can ask eBay to remove this by clicking on ‘report' (the exclamation mark button), next to the review. Read our article GS1 product identifiers powering eBay's product reviews.
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