Royal Mail warns there are only 100 days left to use stamps without barcodes

After 31 January, consumers with non-valid versions will have to send off a form to secure a swap

Royal Mail is urging consumers to use up stamps without barcodes by 31 January 2023, when imprints featuring the late Queen Elizabeth II will cease to be valid for postage.

There are 100 days left for people to rummage through wallets and drawers to track down stamps to use before the deadline, otherwise they will have to swap them for new barcoded stamps in order to send a letter or parcel.

The stamps being changed are some of Royal Mail’s most recognisable, featuring a profile of the late Queen on a plain-coloured background.

A Royal Mail Christmas stamp from 2020
Christmas stamps without barcodes will still be valid after the deadline, while commemorative stamps will not have barcodes added in future, so will also be unaffected. Photograph: Royal Mail/PA

Royal Mail first introduced barcodes to its stamps in February as part of what the company described as its “extensive and ongoing modernisation drive”. It said at the time that the unique barcodes would “facilitate operational efficiencies”, improve security and allow innovative services for customers.

The codes on stamps can be scanned by customers using Royal Mail’s app, and over time the aim is for this to make it possible for people to watch videos or messages from other senders or to gain information about services.

Consumers who do not use their non-barcoded stamps before the deadline will need to fill in a form and send them back to Royal Mail to swap them for the updated versions.

Customers can send back up to £200 worth of unused, non-barcoded stamps to be swapped free of charge. Anyone sending back stamps worth more than £200 is advised to return them to Royal Mail using a secure postage service.

However, Christmas stamps without barcodes are not included in the swap scheme, meaning that Royal Mail customers will be able to use non-barcoded Christmas stamps even after the deadline.

The company said this was in response to feedback from customers, some of whom save Christmas stamps to use when sending their Christmas cards the following year. The company expects most of these to be used up this Christmas.

Commemorative stamps will not have barcodes added in future, meaning they will also remain valid for postage after 31 January.

Royal Mail said its stamp swap scheme was not connected to the death of the Queen.

Barcoded stamps bearing the image of the new monarch, King Charles, will gradually be released, along with new coins and banknotes.


Joanna Partridge

The GuardianTramp

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