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The Difference Between UPC & EAN Barcodes

Posted by: jeremy

You may have noticed that some barcodes differ from others, and that’s true, as there are many different kinds of barcodes for different use purposes. In this article we will discuss the main differences between UPC and EAN barcodes.

What sort of discrepancies will we find between the two most commonly used barcodes and why does such a distinction exist between UPC and EAN barcodes in the first place? To answer that question, we first have to define their individual use purpose, which sets them apart.

Starting with the UPC (Universal Product Codes) code, which is mostly represented in the US and Canada, having been in use since the very beginning of barcodes. Only when demand in Europe and Australia started to grow did the EAN (European Article Numbers) make an entrance.

This begs the question, why not simply use UPC barcodes?

You see, a common UPC barcode will never use a prefix, which is there to indicate the country code, as there are only two countries that are taken into consideration; Either Canada trades with the US or vice versa.

Considering that the European Union now numbers almost thirty members and that the amount will surely grow in the future, one can already spot why the UPC barcode would be a bad idea.

Not only would Union members be confused as to whom the package was sent by, also, certain perks enjoyed by the sole members of the Union would become obfuscated as there would be no certain way of discerning between countries.

That is the sole reason behind the EAN barcode, as the prefix number represents an individual country the package was sent by (if sending products internationally).

Besides this, there are also minor differences which set the two apart. Another notable addition to the EAN barcode is the extra consideration when taking readability into account.

In general, the EAN barcode is far clearer and more modern than the outdated UPC barcode, but as long as it works for the other countries involved, they will still remain in use.

Another ironic point is that other countries are fully capable of reading the UPC barcode, while EAN barcodes may show up with an error in the United States. For this reason, is why it is of the utmost importance to exclusively trade with the UPC barcode in North America.

So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to quickly explain to someone the difference between the UPC barcode and the EAN barcode, always remember these two quintessential points:

  • The UPC barcode is commonly used in the United States, and Canada.
  • The EAN barcode has a country prefix and a check digit number at the end of the barcode.

To conclude, on a base level these are the main differences to between the two barcodes. Join us in the next write-up, where we will discuss the hidden value of barcodes.

Published in Ean Barcodes, upc barcodes
Jeremy has been a writer for BuyBarcodes since the very beginning. His experience dealing with barcodes in a commercial manner dates back to 2011.