Eircode: Postcodes ‘will be standard in 2 years’

The company behind Eircode expects the postcode to be widely used within two years, despite the teething problems that plagued the system on launch day and sustained criticism from courier companies.

Eircode: Postcodes ‘will be standard in 2 years’

Liam Duggan, business development director for Capita Ireland and director of Eircode, said: “The last country to introduce one in the OECD was Serbia and it took them about two years for the uptake to reach the level it expected. We think it will be actually a bit quicker because of modern technology and the use of smartphones.”

Mr Duggan made the comments at the Eircode launch in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel, where the event was picketed by an Irish language promotion group. Conradh na Gaeilge claims that some 50,000 Irish language placenames have been left off Eircode’s database.

The seven-digit code will be sent to 2.2m addresses over the next two weeks and an Eircode finder went live online yesterday morning.

However, many social media users reported that their homes were apparently given addresses in the wrong county, with Shannon Airport a high-profile casualty of the first day problem.

According to the Eircode finder’s database, the Clare-based airport’s address is in neighbouring Limerick.

Capita Ireland said that the database uses An Post’s address system to locate the codes. Communications Minister Alex White said that Eircodes will be an extra line added to addresses that are currently used, are not mandatory, and that no address is being changed as a result of its introduction.

“No house is being moved, no premises is being moved. There is no address going to change,” he said.

Mr Duggan said he did not understand criticisms of Eircode by the Freight Transport Association of Ireland. High-profile members of the freight association, such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL, said Eircode’s design is of no use to them and that they will not use it.

“The Freight Transport Association actually represent a small number of international carriers,” said Mr Duggan. “They don’t deliver a huge amount of parcels, I think it is less than 15% of the parcels delivered in Ireland are delivered by their members, and not all of the members of the Freight Transport Association are against it.

“If someone puts an Eircode on it, it brings it to the exact location. There’s nowhere else in the world that does that, so I don’t understand the criticism.”

The freight association’s general manager, Neil McDonnell, disputed Mr Duggan’s comments. He cited a 2013 Comreg report and said that freight association members carry about 35% of parcels by volume, and almost half by value.

It has lodged a formal complaint over Eircode with the European Commission.

Q & A

System a long time coming, and not like any other

What is an Eircode and how do I get one?

Eircode is Ireland’s brand new postcode, which has been brought in at a cost of €27m. We’re the last country in the OECD to adopt a postcode system, but we’re going out on our own in terms of the type we are using. It has already been applied to your address and your postcode will pop through your letter box in the next two weeks. You can also look it up online at Eircode.ie.

While other countries have a postcode that identifies a geographic area, or cluster of addresses, Eircode is a seven-digit randomised code that identifies an individual address.

What does that mean?

It means your Eircode is yours and yours alone — it identifies your house or business only and is unlike any of the other 2.2m codes that have been issued. The first three characters are known as the routing key — this appears to identify the area based on An Post’s large postal districts, but after that the code is random and unique to your address.

I just looked up my postcode online and my address is wrong. What’s that about?

This has come up quite a bit since Eircode launched. Shannon Airport, for example, is listed as being in Co Limerick. The main message from the Government and Capita, the company behind Eircode, is not to panic. They say Eircodes are an extra line on the address you already use and no addresses will change as a result.

I wanted to look up all my friends’ Eircodes but the site won’t let me anymore — why?

Eircode wants to sell access to the address database to businesses, so it limits the amount of free searches users can make on the website. Some users have found a way around this — clear your internet history and voilà — 15 more searches. It remains to be seen if Eircode will find a way to stop this.

If I forget to put an Eircode on a letter/package, will it still be delivered?

Yes. The Department of Communications says use of Eircode is not mandatory. You can still send post using only the old address., Eircode-free, and it will still be delivered It says Eircode is an extra line on the address that will increase efficiency.

Increased efficiency? The delivery companies must be happy?

Not all of them. While An Post, Nightline, and Fastway are supportive of Eircode, a number of companies, including DHL, Fed Ex, and UPS say they won’t use it.

Why not?

They supported the introduction of a similar code to the one used in the UK. That code — known as a hierarchical code — identifies a cluster of addresses and runs in such a way that adjacent areas have similar codes.

Why wasn’t that used?

The people behind Eircode say that 35% of Irish addresses are non-unique, meaning that people have the same postal addresses in some areas, particularly in rural townlands. They say a unique identifying code is needed to distinguish different addresses.

However, long before Eircode was unveiled, the Department of Communications formed a National Postcode Project Board which recommended a hierarchical code, as did PA Consulting, a private company hired to offer its advice on the project.

Eircode bears no resemblance to a hierarchical code. Capita, the company that won the contract to deliver the postcode, issued the department an 80-page design report in May 2014 outlining the process behind the make-up of Eircode.

The appendix of this report “list the views of the stakeholders with whom we consulted in the design phase of the project.” An Post is the only delivery company mentioned in this appendix, and it lists 15 “critical issues” for An Post that it expects Eircode to address.

So where do things stand with the private companies now?

The Freight Transport Association of Ireland says it represents companies responsible for carrying roughly 35% of parcels in Ireland by volume, and almost half by value. It says Eircode represents “a restraint of competition against the incumbent postal provider An Post, and an unlawful protection measure” and lodged a complaint about it with the European Commission.

Any other complaints or concerns?

Privacy advocates aren’t crazy about Eircode’s design either. The Data Protection Commissioner’s office also advised a hierarchical design on consultation prior to the project going to tender.

“A postcode model which provided, in most cases, a one-to-one match between a postcode and a dwelling would raise significant privacy/data protection issues,” then-commissioner Billy Hawkes advised in 2006. “It is a model I would have serious reservations about, if it were to be put forward as a formal policy proposal.”

In its 2013 annual report the commissioner’s office noted that its “serious concern has since turned into a reality”, and while it has been somewhat appeased by a data protection bill brought in for Eircode, an online privacy advocacy group said the legislation was “useless”.

Digital Rights Ireland wrote to Communications Minister Alex White after it felt a department official implied that the group was satisfied with Eircode’s privacy provisions, saying: “We see a great deal of uncertainty and dangerous ‘downside’ in relation to privacy arising from the particular design which has been chosen. “These are completely uncharted waters and so it is really impossible to say how great the privacy impact will be.”

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