What Is a Royal Mail Franking License?

You’re legally required to have a franking machine license from Royal Mail before you use your franking machine. It lasts for one year and you need to remember to renew it if your business owns a franking machine. On the other hand, if you’ve rented then your license is typically included in the contract.

In this article we’ll set out the need-to-knows of the franking machine license including how to get one and what it costs.

Using a franking machine in the UK in 2022

A franking machine allows you to print a postage mark directly onto your mail, without having to buy stamps or visit the post office.

Royal Mail is the official regulator of franking machines and does not sell or rent them. 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 withdraw approval for any particular model. For instance, in January 2023 standard franking machines will be decertified, meaning they will no longer be valid for use.

Anyone using a franking machines must have a licence, and you need to be registered as a limited company in order to get hold of one in the first place. The license is valid for one year only and you can get it either through an authorised supplier or directly from Royal Mail.

The full terms and conditions are set out in the Royal Mail Scheme for Franking Letters and Parcels 2018.

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 or rent from an authorised franking services company. A directory is listed on the Royal Mail website.

Applying for your licence is a fairly straightforward procedure as your chosen manufacturer or supplier will either apply to Royal Mail on your behalf or advise you if you need to go through Royal Mail directly.

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 including your business address, 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 around than £20 per month.

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:

  1. The machine must be loaded with the correct current postage rates.
  2. The ink colour must be Royal Mail approved red. The exception to this is the Business Mail Advanced Service (formerly Cleanmail) which uses blue.
  3. The franked impression must be clear and legible. It should also include the date of posting and the correct postage rate.
  4. Unsuitable slogans must not be used in the franking mark.
  5. Mail must be submitted in bundles, separated by class and service, and all facing in the same direction.
  6. The machine must not be used to frank any mail for a third party.
  7. Any alterations or modifications to the machine must be approved by Royal Mail.
  8. The licence is not transferable. If you sell the machine, the new owner needs to apply for their own licence.
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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.

Next steps

Expert Market can help your business secure the best deals on franking machines. You can get started by answering a couple of questions about your postage. Then we’ll match you with trusted suppliers to talk you through installation, maintenance, and so on.

Written by:
Sabrina Dougall
Sabrina is a business journalist whose career began in news reporting. She has a master's in Investigative Journalism from City University London, and her work has appeared in The Times, The Daily Express, Money Saving Expert, Camden New Journal, Global Trade Review, and Computer Business Review. She specializes in writing about SEO (search engine optimization). Having run her own small business, Sabrina knows first-hand how critical digital marketing is to building a client base and local reputation.
Reviewed by:
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor
Heleana Neil specialises in Business Services, managing the strategy and production of content for SMBs, helping businesses with the challenges and opportunities they face today. Covering everything from payroll to payment processing, Heleana uses her expertise to help business owners make better, informed decisions and grow their companies.