Weights and measures

These regulations are designed to give consumers reassurance over the quantities they are purchasing.

You can find all 42 regulations that relate to weights and measures here [opens in new window].

Tell us what you think should happen to these regulations and why, being specific where possible:

100 responses to Weights and measures

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    Julie said on April 14, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Given that a large proportion of the population in this country are over 50, I feel that it is essential to continue to provide all weights and measures in both imperial and metric, and to permit consumers to buy “loose” items in either system.

    Let’s make life easier for everyone – life is too short to spend converting between one and the other – and many elderly people have no idea how to convert metric to imperial anyway (and vice versa for younger people I expect).

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    bee said on April 13, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I like lbs and oz, feet and inches. Im only 31 and i was never taught kg and grams. Just stop chopping and changing and stick with one or the other, im sure we’ll cope as a nation eventually.

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      michduncg@gmail.com said on April 14, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Interesting you say that you were never taught kg and grammes, as lbs and ounces have not been taught as the primary method of weighing since the early 70s. I bet all of your maths and science classes were in kgs, grammes, cms, metres. I bet you ran the 100m, 400m, 800m and/or 1500m in sport, rather than yards. You say stop chopping and changing – we did change in the 1970s and it was too metric. Also, virtually every other country in the world is metric. As a shop manager I am frustrated at the mess we are in, with some customers expecting my young assistants to be able to freely convert between metric and imperial. They can’t, and its not their fault – they have only been taught metric and the older generation have had 40 or more years to get used to it.

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    StevenL said on April 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Regulation relating to specified quantities should all go. The weights and measures people will tell you they are vital, but they make straw arguments for the following reasons:

    1) There are no prescribed quantities for soft drinks. Coca Cola is sold in half pints, 16oz glasses, 200ml bottles, 330ml bottles, pints, simply ‘glasses’ and even in ‘bottomless glasses’. Are they seriously saying that the market for soft drinks is not working? Why won’t this work for beer?

    2) In many EU nations beer is not served in stamped measuring glasses. Belgian bars have those tulip glasses and serve high quality beer with a large head in them. Bars in the Canary Islands have beer glasses that seem to range from about 400ml or so to the traditional British pint glass. Do the markets for beer in Belgium or Tenerife ‘not work’ then??

    3) The regulators would have us believe that if they are not there overseeing everything we are going to get ripped off. The fact is that bars and restaurants need repeat business and have no interest in disappointing their customers. Customer satisfaction is more important that satisfying the lust of the bureaucrats.

    4) A freer market where suppliers can innovate will increase consumer choice and benefit consumers. Specificed quantities merely restrict much needed innovation and restrict consumer choice.

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    StevenL said on April 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I can’t help but get the impression that there are a lot of responses from Inspectors of Weights and Measures here, relating to the issue of metrication.

    It looks to me like the technocrats have decided that metric is good for us and we should be forced to embrace it. What is lost on them is that the reason we still use imperial measurements a lot is because a large chunk of the British public want to.

    The technocrats should remember that they are public servants, here to provide the public with the services they demand, not the services that the bureaucracy think is good for us.

    If the public demand goods in imperial measurements, then the technocrats should live with it and provide the service of ensuring the integrety of such measures.

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      michduncg said on April 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      StevenL, it may surprise you to know that there everyday ordinary folk who just think that its time we joined the modern world and ditched the remaining Imperial measures. I am not an Inspector of Weights & Measures, just a 43 year old who remembers being told by his 60 year headmaster in 1974 that going metric was the best thing that could happen to Britain and how much easier it would make learning

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    Andrew Jenkins said on April 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Often the demands to cut red tape come from vested interests, – typically businesses and traders – this often results in a dilution of protection for consumers, especially in the field of Weights and Measures.

    Cutting red tape should only be done in order to create a simpler and more easily regulated environment. In the case of Weights and Measures the easiest way to do this is to do simplify legislation that continues to support separate imperial and metric regulations. Get rid of the absurd anomalies regarding beer, cider, milk, etc and stick to metric quantities for ALL goods and services.

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    ben said on April 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    i am allowed to use non certified scales to weigh articles in my business providing i do not base a transaction on the weight given by them.
    Many people ask me to weigh their items, or scrap, to give an off the cuff indication of what its worth, which i happily do, explaining to them it is only a guidance. Pefectly legal. With modern electronic scales being incredibly accurate, how about a ‘signage’ system so you dont have to ‘explain’ the legalalaties of your scales to customers whom only want an approximation? Grocers,especially large grocers can display a sign “certified scales in use” whereby they must come under current legislation, smaller one man bands can save money and compliance worries by displaying a ‘warning’ sign that thier scales ONLY give an approximation for guidance.
    Legislation could be ammended simply to ‘release’ those from displaying the disclaimer, but to encomapss those who do want an extra layer of consumer trust (and are able to pay for it).

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    Ian Dunbar said on April 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    What a complete waste of time the whole idea of compulsion is, let dealers sell in whatever weights and measures they want, provided they are accurate, the public will choose and one or the other system will vanish from lack of use., The same thing happened to VHS, Betamax and Video 2000 (remember that?) making it illegal to sell one item in imperial and another in metric “By law” is just nonsense. Scarp all but the legislation that states scales must be accurate and save a bucket load (now there is a decent measure) of money.

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    Nicholas Revill said on April 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Jewellers certified Scales. What a total rip off and waste of my time and money. I was visited by two people from weights and measures that have visited every Jewellery shop in Lincolnshire. The cost? They then tell me I have to buy a new set of scales that cost £500. The only reason they can sell these scales at £500 is that they are certified. Otherwise they would be £75. There was incidently nothing wrong with my existing scales but they were not certified. I have now bought new £500 scales and they have never been back to check.

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    Robert Grice said on April 13, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Any study of social or economic history confirms that a standard system Weights and Measures is the first thing that all civilised countries introduce. Without laws and regulations governing weights and measures the entire structure of local, national and international trade would break down. Fraudulent practises would occur and consumer protection would be diminished.

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    John Whisson said on April 13, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Weights and measures have been a cornerstone of public and consumer protection for many hundreds of years. As inflation goes ever upward and consumer goods and food increase in price it is imperative that standards of weight and measure are maintained and control is exercised over weighing and measuring equipment that is used to sell goods. It is also vitally important that an independant organisation, such as trading standards, can inspect and test weighing and measuring equipment to ensure consumers get a fair deal. Over the recent years there has been a shift to trade organisations policing their own industries and even testing and certifying their own weighing and measuring equipment. Prosecutions of large retail organisations, especially in relation to petrol pumps, have demonstrated that they are not as diligent as trading standards and have a vested interest in keeping equipment going irrespecive of accuracy.
    As a consumer I want confidence that the goods I buy are correct in measure and that I am not being ripped off. Weights and measures control must be preserved to maintain this confidence.

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    Peter Johnssen said on April 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    A nation of shopkeepers cannot seriously consider scrapping legislation that is designed to provide a fair and level market in which to operate. Wehave tried to metricate for 50 years because it is sensible and there are few people left that know about scruples, links, drams, mutchkins, grains and all the other confusing conventions for weights and measures in trade. We have taught children for 45 years in metric – lets not confuse them when it comes to buying things. Much of it is technical and trivial it’s OK so long as people understand the quantity – pounds and ounces are just too confusing and allow big business to confuse us all further; why else would Wiseman’s Dairy sell milk in litres and Tesco sell in pints! Consistency helps us compare.

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    Michael Gregory said on April 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    We need to ditch remaining Imperial Measurements in shops and pubs, and make it legal for businesses to advertise their location in metric measures on road signs. We took the decision to metric in 1965 and it shows shocking lack of leadership by successive Governments that we have not completed this program. As a result we have a growing sense of confusion by younger people who are are only taught metric in depth. There is no need for this confusion. People deal happily with canned and bottled drinks in metric measures, and drink happily on mainland Europe where metric measures are served. Imperial measurements are meaningless to most people and, 36 years after we were supposed to go metric, let’s finish the job.

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    Philip Carpenter said on April 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    For many years the weights and measures legislation has sought to control the quantities in which staple foodstuffs are sold. Bread has long been required to be sold in quantities of 400 grams or its multiples. Whther the customer realises this or not, there is confidence that a large or small loaf, in the absence of any weight indication, will be the same size no matter who baked it. These regulations allow the continued use of the previous specified quantities, without any weight marking, but also allow the production of loaves in any quantity if its weight is displayed. We would therefore have a two tier system, with some retailers selling unlabelled unwrapped bread, and others selling unwrapped bread accompanied by a weight indication.

    Draught beer is currently required to be sold in quantities of one-third of a pint, half a pint or multiples of half a pint. We have no need for another specified quantity. Pubs choosing to sell in all of the prescribed quantities would need to have double the number of glass types available, adding to cost and scope for confusion.

    This is a wonderful opportunity to scrap unnecessary legislation before it comes into force.

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    Norman J PHELPS said on April 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Let us revert to the English weights and measures, in particuar pounds and ounces, yards, feet and inches, miles
    Any regulation made by the EU should be subject to the rigours of English law (full Parliamentary scrutiny and signed by our Monarch before it can be enacted in Britain

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      michael gregory said on April 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Ahhh – the old ‘blame metrication on the EU’ red herring. It was a duly elected British Government under Harold Wilson in 1965 that decided we should go metric, acting on advice from the CBI. It was Margaret Thatcher herself that stopped the teaching of Imperial Measurements in 1974. So the EU had no part in it the decision. You could argue that we are be anti-Commonwealth, by not being metric, as all the countries in the Commonwealth are metric.

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    Richard Hall said on April 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    It is ridiculous that in an officially metric country, pubs are forced to serve draught beer in pints and fractions of pints. Bars should have the right to serve draught drinks in metric quantities and not be forced to use metric for wine and spirits and imperial for draught beer – only in Britain.

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    Gary Gilmore said on April 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    There should be a move back to prescribed quantities or at least a requirment to have much bigger unit prices. It is a loke trying to buy your cheap beer out the supermarket and your getting 15 x 400ml cans or 18 x 330ml bottles. It’s so difficult to calculate what’s the bast value.
    It’s the same with basic things like bread and breakfast cereal. you now get a loaf that weighs 620g for 72p and a 800g loaf for 81p. You have no idea what’s cheapest. And when you ask they refer you to a tiny label about 2 inches from the floor. Try reading that with your varifocal lenses in. Impossible.
    Stop the nonesense.
    Allow traders to sell beer by the lire or whatever. But make sure consumers can see the prices clearly and can make an informed choice.

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    David Templeton said on April 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    This consultation is well-intentioned but inherently flawed. The Weights and Measures Act 1985 contains separate provisions controlling local administration of national policy, powers, units and standards of measurement, weighing and measuring for trade, public weighing and measuring, the regulation of transactions in goods and the minimum and average quantity systems. All of these are inter-connected. Reviews of one part of the Act and the associated delegated legislation (i.e., weighing or measuring equipment and instruments) cannot be conducted in isolation from the other parts. In addition, do we really want to turn the clock back to 1963, which was the last time that regulation of equipment (instruments) was contained within one piece of delegated legislation? The nature of trade and the increasing complexity and sophistication of weighing or measuring equipment and instruments over the last 50 years since that approach was last used would preclude returning to same. It should also be remembered that we now have 4 different legislative systems controlling weighing or measuring equipment and instruments: traditional “Crown” stamping under Part II of the Act; “EEC” stamping under the Measuring Instruments (EEC Requirements) Regulations 1988; NAWI “stickering” under the Non-automatic Weighing Instruments Regulations 2000; and MID “stickering” under the various regulations implementing the Measuring Instruments Directive. I fail to see how one generic system can be found to cover all of these issues.

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    Dennis Ambler said on April 11, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    When I go shopping I always convert back to imperial to get the concept of what the quantity is. Of course that is my age, but a lot of people are like me. Leave it alone as it is.

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    Jonathan Miles said on April 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    The legislation and regulations can certainly be simplified and consolidated. They were described in the case “Thoburn v. Sunderland City Council and others as” nightmare of a paper chase” and “lamentable that criminal offences should be created by such a maze of cross-references in subordinate legislation”.

    But in any revision it is essential that the basic principle of robust consumer protection remains. It is also essential that no dilution is made to the requirement for the metric system to be the primary, official standard for trade purposes (with references to non metric equivalents being for indicative purposes).

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    Evan Owen said on April 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Any legislation which is not enshrined in EU law should be scrapped because it is superfluous.

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