This article will explain what a Royal Mail franking license consists of, and how to go about getting one for your business.
Franking machine overview
A franking machine allows you to print postage directly onto your mail, without having to buy stamps or visit the Post Office.
The Royal Mail does not supply franking machines directly, but does regulate their manufacture and use very closely, to ensure they are used legitimately. Royal Mail has powers under the Postal Services Act 2000 to approve the manufacture, supply, maintenance and operation of all franking equipment. This includes individual machines and from time to time they may withdraw approval for any particular model.
Buyers and renters of UK franking machines therefore need to ensure that they have a licence, in order to use these devices. This applies whether you plan to frank five items of mail a day, or a hundred and fifty items a minute.
How to get licensed
Franking machine manufacturers and suppliers are an integral part of the licensing system, and your first step is to make sure you buy from a Royal Mail approved company. You will find these listed on the Royal Mail’s official website where you will also find links to the companies’ websites.
Applying for your licence is a fairly straightforward procedure as your chosen manufacturer or supplier will apply to Royal Mail on your behalf.
The licence includes:
- Your business name and address
- The machine serial number
- A unique die number
A peel off sticker containing these details can be attached to the machine for easy identification. If any of your details change, or if you stop using the franking machine, you must notify Royal Mail and the supplier within 14 days.
How much does it cost?
The cost of the licence is often included in the overall rental or purchase price of the machine, so it may vary depending on the brand and where you get it from. The supplier will often apply for the licence on your behalf. As a guide, renting a decent, low end franking machine can cost less than £20 per month plus VAT.
Using your franking machine
The full terms and conditions of the licence are listed in the Royal Mail Scheme for Franking Letters and Parcels 2008 and this acts as your legal agreement with Royal Mail. Failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the licence could result in permission being withdrawn. Requirements include:
- The machine must be loaded with the correct current postage rates.
- The ink colour must be Royal Mail approved red. The exception to this is the Business Mail Advanced Service (formerly Cleanmail) which uses blue.
- The franked impression must be clear and legible. It should also include the date of posting and the correct postage rate.
- Unsuitable slogans must not be used in the franking mark.
- Mail must be submitted in bundles, separated by class and service, and all facing in the same direction.
- The machine must not be used to frank any mail for a third party.
- Any alterations or modifications to the machine must be approved by Royal Mail.
- The licence is not transferable. If you sell the machine, the new owner needs to apply for their own licence.
Maintenance and inspection
The terms of the licence also require that the franking machine is kept in good working order and checked at least once a year by an approved inspector. Royal Mail are also authorised to carry out on-site inspections. Some suppliers arrange to have this done automatically every time the machine is re-credited.
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