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Online service guarantees pictures will be accepted by Passport Agency; Newsagent Martin McColl offers service to all passport applicants

30 June 2008 - An online service www.paspic.com, which lets people take their own passport pictures at home, is making it far easier for travellers to get their pictures approved by the Passport Agency.

Currently, 14% of all passport applications are rejected because the accompanying photos don’t meet the stringent biometric standards required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). But having a passport photo rejected can result in frustration and costly delays, particularly for travellers who have to cancel a trip because of a late passport.

Paspic.com users take their own photograph using a digital camera, which they then upload to the site. Paspic formats the image into passport photos and rigorously checks – both with technology and manually - that the picture meets the 20 different biometric requirements as stated by the Passport Agency.

If they meet the standards, the images are printed out and mailed to the applicant within 48 hours. If they don’t, the applicant is alerted and they can try again until they get it right. In the highly unlikely event that a Paspic photo isn’t accepted, a new set of pictures will be done free of charge or the money fully refunded, not something you’d get with a photo booth.

The site is so effective that the UK’s largest chain of independent newsagents, Martin McColl, is now promoting it to all passport applicants at its 400 post office branches. “We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to get passport pictures that are accepted. Paspic’s guaranteed results cuts out customer frustration, saving time and money. We now steer all our passport and driving license applicants their way,” says Kevan Hughes, Post Office Operations Manager at Martin McColl.

Paspic.com has also proven extremely popular with families as it can be difficult to get a photo of a baby or young child that meets all the requirements. For example, the child’s head must be in the middle of the frame and the parents’ hands are not allowed to be seen in the picture.

“Instead of trying to squeeze themselves and their child into a photo booth or disrupting their baby’s routine to get out to a photo studio, parents can simply take a picture of their child while they’re relaxed and happy at home,” explains Yehuda Hecht, founder of Paspic.com and the original inventor of the photo booth. “Taking a picture for Paspic is easy. You simply need to take your photo with your face in the middle of the picture, on a plain off-white, cream or light grey background. We’ll will take care of the rest!”

Easy to follow instructions and video tutorials are provided on the site to ensure that customers don’t go wrong. The site also links to online passport applications so that the entire process can be done with a click of a mouse.

Paspic’s photographs are suitable for the UK, EU, AU and US Passport Office Authorities’ regulations and can also be used for drivers’ licenses, identity cards or Oyster cards. A set of four passport pictures costs £3.95 for UK, AU and/or EU style photos including free postage, while a set of three US style photos including free postage costs £5.00. Paspic photographs are printed on low-gloss, plain-white photo-quality paper.



~Ends~

Notes for editors

All new passport photographs must include unique, measurable, physical characteristics that are used in facial recognition technology to help prevent passport fraud.

Tips for taking good passport pictures at home:

1. Pick a plain off-white, cream or light grey coloured background and take your photo with head in the middle of the picture.
2. Camera distance about 2 metres (6-7 ft) from you.
3. You should have a neutral expression with your mouth closed.
4. Look straight into the camera.
5. Make sure that the frame of your glasses is thin and does not cover your eyes.
6. Make sure your hair is not covering your face.
7. Do not wear a hat or a head scarf - no sun glasses!
8. There should be nothing in the picture except you.
9. Avoid flash reflection on your skin, glasses or red-eye effect.
10. Avoid shadows across the face and behind your head.
11. Ensure that the light on your face is even.


About Paspic

In 1995, On-Line Agencies (holdings) Ltd, was founded by, among others, Photo Me International Plc and Online Agencies Ltd, for the primary purpose of connecting the Business Card kiosks operated by Photo Me on the high street to the internet. In 2000 following a management buyout the Company changed its name to Paspic Limited and has moved on. Now, rather than connecting the kiosk to the Internet, Paspic® is placing the virtual Photo-Booth directly in the home. The market for Paspic® is wide. Every individual at some point needs a passport, bus pass, club membership card, CV, driving licence, employee card, ID card, job application, membership card, rail pass, ski pass, student card or visa. Paspic® delivers the ID photograph needed for these and many other applications.

The company is based in the Sussex Innovation Centre in the University of Sussex and was founded by Yehuda Hecht.

Prior to founding Paspic, Yehuda Hecht founded and was Managing Director of a start-up company PhotoMagic. This company made and sold personalized memorabilia, pioneering digital photographic technologies from 1998. Photo-Me International Plc (PMI) invested in the company and hence PMI PhotoMagic Ltd, a Joint Venture Company was formed. In 1994 all shares were sold to PMI. Yehuda is the co-inventor of the patented PhotoMagic technology. This technology is used worldwide in nearly all of the 20,000 digital photo booths.

About Martin McColl
Martin McColl is the country's largest chain of Newsagents with over 900 stores; in addition there are over 300 convenience stores and 100+ High Street stores trading throughout England, Scotland and Wales. 400+ of these stores have Post Offices.

Initially the company was formed as TM Retail when in 1998 Forbuoys acquired Martin Retail Group; the earliest of these stores dated back to 1901 a RS McColl in Glasgow. The trading names of TM Retail stores at that time included Forbuoys, Martin and RS McColl. 1999 saw the launch of TM Retail's new convenience concept McColl’s. McColl’s have subsequently been rolled out into Neighbourhood, Metro, High Street, Travel and Hospital locations.

In 2004 TM Retail acquired Dillon stores and consolidated their market position as the country's number one retailer in their sector. Following a successful management buy out in 2005, the company has changed its name to Martin McColl Limited, and throughout the second half of 2006 is undertaking an exciting and ambitious roll out programme on all stores, that will see all newsagents branded Martin's and all convenience stores as McColl's.

For high res images or for further information and case studies, please contact:

Melissa Talago
Peekaboo Communications
Tel:01635 248 496
melissa@peekaboocoms.co.uk





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