Royal Mail sets up postcodes for armed forces abroad

Royal Mail and Britain’s Ministry of Defence have developed new postcodes specifically for British armed forces serving overseas. The move should allow British Forces and their families the same access to goods and services from the Internet when they are stationed abroad as they do at home.

Royal Mail said British Forces Post Office (BFPO) numbers have suffered from being incompatible with many online ordering systems, and that without having a UK postcode, military service personnel also struggle to access a range of government and financial services.

But UK businesses will now be able to include the new set of BFPO postcodes in their ordering systems to expand their markets to include British Forces stationed around the world, Royal Mail said.

Royal Mail said it worked closely with the BFPO, which is a separate organistion from the UK universal postal service operator, on developing an address and postcode structure consistent with Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF) system.

Lt Col Ian Stark, the BFPO head of policy and plans, said the new postcodes would make a “big difference” for personnel stationed abroad.

“The database opens up access to Internet services and the ability to carry out Internet transactions, whether it is online shopping, registering your car or applying for a mortgage or credit card,” he said.

“The changes will also allow our people to build up a credit history which is recognised by financial service providers.”

Mike Newnham, Royal Mail’s chief customer officer, said: “We understand how much service personnel and their families based overseas value being able to shop online and how they will benefit from gaining access to a range of online services too.”

Postcode Anywhere

Mail software provider Postcode Anywhere said it has now implemented the new BFPO dataset into its address verification system to be used by its more than 8,000 customer organisations worldwide.

The Worcester-based company explained that under the new system, each BFPO number has a postcode assigned, while users submit the term “BFPO” into fields for PAF town names.

Postcode Anywhere managing director Gary Mucklow said his company had received a “steady stream” of requests for BFPO data, but previously was unable to satisfy them.

“I am sure this will help to reduce a lot of the frustrations which our armed forces and their families have encountered when trying to perform simple tasks such as ordering goods online,” he said.

“Address validation is an established technology which we now take for granted in the UK when talking to a call centre or ordering goods online. But if your address data doesn’t match, the best-case scenario is a lengthy ordering process.”

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