April 26, 2012, 3:35 PM

British soldiers can now fire off online orders from anywhere

New online postcodes will let deployed military access more online goods and services.

Lead Photo

For military personnel deployed far away from home for months on end, familiar comforts can go a long way. That includes online shopping, ordering and web services.

Now, The Ministry of Defence, British Post Office and Royal Mail, the U.K.’s postal service,  have made this small luxury possible for U.K. personnel stationed around the world. The three U.K. entities have teamed up to introduce web-only U.K.-style postcodes for the 100,000 British military personnel and their families stationed abroad, including in Germany, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.

The new codes means U.K. businesses can update their online ordering systems to make their goods and services available to British Forces, and is designed to allow service members to be able to order products from online retailers as if they were at home.

“This is good news for our forces and their families stationed overseas, who should enjoy exactly the same access to goods and services as U.K. residents,” says Andrew Robathan, Minister for Defence, Personnel, Welfare and Veterans. “One of the aims of the Armed Forces Covenant introduced by this government was to minimize the impact of military life, so this is another great step forward to make service life as easy as possible.”

British Forces Post Office numbers are not compatible with many online ordering systems, including credit agencies. However, with the updated postal codes, service personnel will be able to order everyday products online and eventually have better access to mortgages and credit cards, as they will more easily be able to maintain a U.K. credit history recognized by financial service providers, the Ministry of Defence said in a release.

Currently, British post codes are formatted with the acronym BFPO (British Forces Post Office), followed by a number such as 123. Under this new system, each number will be linked with a unique, non-geographic U.K.-style postcode created solely for use online.

The new system was unveiled last month as part of the Royal Mail Postal Address File, a monthly product update. The government anticipates that credit agencies and government departments will be among the first to use the system and that other companies will begin to update their Internet services to accept the system beginning this month.

The move comes on the heels of the U.K.’s 2011 Covenant Interim, which determined the U.K. military needed to update addresses to ensure service personnel had equal access to commercial products and services as the rest of the U.K.

The new postcode data will be available to businesses through address management technology providers beginning later this spring. After updating their online ordering systems with the most up-to-date software, businesses will be able to make their goods and services available to British Forces based abroad.

“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,

Mike Newnham, Royal Mail’s chief customer officer says. “We have been working to develop an address and postcode structure that will provide businesses with the opportunity to make these services available.”

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