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UK Postcodes, Royal Mail, "PAF", national debate and more.

UK Postcodes were introduced over 50 years ago by the Royal Mail to speed mail distribution. Though still serving this initial purpose, the elapsed decades have seen uses of the code and/or parts of it, develop and permeate UK society with application to research, analysis, planning, routing, finance/insurance, the UK Census and as a management tool.

Royal Mail (RM) the UK's postal service, is a limited company though state-owned, the shares are held by HM Government who seek to privatise it; Postal Services Act 2011. Ofcom took over regulation of the UK postal services in 2011 from Postcomm. The "Post Office" which provides public counter services, is currently owned by RM. Background: In 2001 the government established Postcomm as the postal regulator. In 2006 Postcomm ended the RMs monopoly, opening the UK to competiton able to "carry" mail and pass it to RM for "delivery". In 2008 Postcomm called for part-privatisation of RM, result: Postal Services Act 2011. That said, RM is protected by and has obligations under the Postal Services Act. The primary obligation relates to the universal service obligation, but another is that RM must maintain the Postcode Address File (PAF), making it available to anyone who wishes to use it on "such terms as are reasonable" ~ a subject of much debate over recent years.

Postcode Address File ("PAF") is a database of approximately 27million UK "Delivery Points" (residential and commercial addresses) and 1.7million postcodes (of addresses, POBoxes, special/non-geographic records) periodically updated by RM. PAFs primary purpose is for the RM; who use its "postal addresses" to route, sort and deliver mail. PAF is "available to anyone." being licenseable via RM Value Added Resellers (Vars); RM deal directly with select large bodies/organisations. The most common use of PAF is in address management software (enter a postcode & house number, return a "postal address"); if auto-infill of a "postal address" to a house number is desired, PAF based software is probably the only present solution. The RM acknowledge PAF contains errors. Some addresses are not shown correctly, others not at all and "postal addresses" do not necessarily accurately reflect/describe geographic address location. The latter stems from PAFs prime purpose for the RM (route/sort/deliver) and use of that which is "postally required"; a supplementary "Alias" file to PAF details expansive, preferred/used data by the public. RM are "the owner of the copyright and any database rights in PAF", but have publicly confirmed "RM is not claiming it has ownership of the IP (Intellectual Property) in any other party's data". [PAF Consultation:Q&As]

National debate over PAF has for years occupied the UK press, web, articles and campaigns, Govn Depts and Local Authorities: its accessability, ownership, the RM licencing terms and fees. Opponents of the historic position argue as RM are state owned, PAF should be "low cost"/freely available. A 2006/7 multi-party consultation over PAFs future & management (involving Postcomm) rejected all calls to "free"/release PAF/parts of it. At effectively the same time in 2006, RM decided to change their licencing terms and costs of PAF; impacting all users and their Vars. RM may have made PAF cheaper for some, largely the occasional single user, but many believe markedly more costly for business/significant users, with additionally complex licencing. RMs PAF consultation with its Vars was complex and protracted, with strong feed back from respected involved parties in the UK. Annual fee increases commenced. In Dec 2008 RMs revised PAF licencing terms & fees were published, effective from Sept 2009. In Oct 2009 "The Guardian" newspaper ran an article regarding RM licensing of about 4,000pa and put forward the economic & social advantages of availability of the postcode. To our knowledge RM PAF licencing remains as outlined above. However, following a Government consultation published Dec 2009, in 2010 the Postcode (not "PAF") and many other types of public sector information were released under the Governments "Open Government Licence". The accepted generic attribution relating to the use of such [nationalarchives.gov.uk] where, as is the case with this company, data sources are multiple and diverse is: "Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0" which we include here in relation to any/all current and future use we may make of such. Expansive detail relating to the foregoing is provided on our page: UK OGL attribution.

Our Experience and Expertise of UK Addressing Our initial experience of postcodes and the complexity of UK addresses, came 25 years ago; logistics, sales, planning, fleet routing optimisation and application of computing to all, required understanding of PAF. This company was formed in 1993. Our expertise, consultancy and programming were employed by "houshold names" and the RM; projects for the latter related to codes/addresses, the "how & what" we still treat as confidential. At RM invitation we became a Var for PAF, as it had linkage to some of our UK products and services; our use of PAF was always specialised & niche, utilising our knowledge. We were one of few Vars to submit detailed formal response to the RM PAF consultation process (above). In mid 2008 we chose to terminate our 14 year relationship with RM and use of PAF, as a consequence of RM then forthcoming "new" licencing terms/fees and our opinion of its direction. Through 2009 we increased development of existing/new International data (which is ongoing) and in parallel applied our 25 years expertise and experience to reformulate and expand our UK information from our "real world" multi-million record data ~ our achievement: "UK Street Address Database".

Any/all Trademarks mentioned above are recognised as such.


Evox Facilities Ltd, 9 Hillbrow, Reigate Road, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 0QX England
Tel/Fax: +044 (0)1737 247333