As eTrading becomes more widely adopted it is clear that the ability to openly route electronic invoices and other transaction documents is the key to scaling up adoption levels and delivering maximum benefits. To that end it is equally clear that we need a unique company identification system that is used by all operators of eTrading hubs.

Currently, we effectively muddle through using a hotch-potch of different identifiers, some of which aren’t unique and others that are unique but not necessarily suitable for eTrading purposes.

As someone pointed out to me recently, we don’t try to use an organisation’s Company Number as its telephone number as well – it simply wouldn’t work and we would tie ourselves in knots trying to make it work. So rather than try to shoe-horn in an ID system that was never designed for the job or, even worse, allow a mixture of potentially non-unique IDs, it seems clear a unique eTrading ID is the sensible way forward.

We should also be prepared to allow the ID to be transferrable, as is the case with phone numbers. This is not a daunting task – it just needs someone to take the lead and for all service providers to agree to do it. This view has been advocated by the Hub Alliance and the European E-Invoicing Service Providers Association and we hope that others will agree and help to achieve universal support for a common approach.

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