France’s La Poste has announced it will issue “digital stamps” starting in 2023.
The initiative will offer a “very simple” alternative to the green Marianne definitive stamps currently used in France for low-weight mail, according to La Poste director general Nathalie Collin.
To send mail with a digital “stamp,” users will pay to download a single-use eight-character code – a mix of letters and numbers – which they can then write by hand in the top-right corner of an envelope or postcard. The code will serve as a stamp and confirm the sender’s payment for a price of €1.16, the same as the green Marianne definitive.
The move comes as La Poste modernizes its business amid the ongoing decline in regular mail, which dropped from 18 billion letters in 2012 to six billion letters in France in 2022.
La Poste plans to invest €800 million (about $1 billion Cdn.) by 2025 to accompany its modernization plans, which include assisting the estimated 13 million people in France who may have difficulty with digital technology. To create the digital code system, a dozen researchers developed a “complex” algorithm to reduce fraudulent activity, Collin said.
Despite its push to the future, La Poste has no plans to forgo traditional paper stamps, including its definitive series featuring Marianne, the personification of the French Republic, that began in 2005.
The move also comes as the British Royal Mail faces “outrage and upset” over its new barcoded stamps (“British Royal Mail moves to barcodes,” CSN Vol. 46 #24, March 15, 2022).
“Eventually it will just be the barcode, won’t it?” Dinah Johnson, the founder of the U.K.-based Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society, told the Guardian this July. “They’re trying to attract the younger generation by throwing in a QR code and a video of Shaun the Sheep,” U.K. collector and dealer Andrew Jackson also told the Guardian.
The Royal Mail delivered more than 20 billion letters in 2005 but fewer than eight billion in 2020-21.