Weights and measures

All goods, whether pre-packed or not, should be of the correct weight or measure stated on the packaging or indicated on the premises.

Part of our job is to ensure that the public receive the correct amount of any product they buy.

Almost all goods today are sold by some reference to either it's weight or measure, whether by the pint, litre, gramme or metre. This includes everyday items such as bread, petrol, beer, clothing material, sand or virtually anything else you can think of. Trading Standards enforce a complex set of regulations designed to ensure that the public and businesses can have confidence in their purchases and ensures fair competition. We do this by:

  • Verifying that weighing and measuring equipment is initially accurate
  • Routinely visiting businesses and checking weighing and measuring equipment
  • Checking products already in the shops
  • Reacting to complaints of short measure

A more in-depth view of Weights and Measures legislation is given below.

A review of weights and measures

In the UK, it has been estimated that goods to the value of a billion pounds are traded at retail level by some form of measurement of their quantity. However, do consumers stop to think why or how it is that they can have confidence in their purchases?

The law relating to weights and measures today evolved so that:

  • Security of uniform system of units of weights and measures could be established
  • Controls could be placed over weighing and measuring equipment in use for trade
  • The public could be protected against short quantity in the sale of goods

The system of weights and measures has developed through:

  • Legal frameworks
  • Adequate and even handed enforcement
  • Technological advances in equipment

There is a vast range of law governing weights and measures; as technology, numbers and variety of goods have increased so has legislation

Weighing originated as man's first assessment of the weight of goods was the load his strength could carry, length was determined in terms of parts of body: breadth of palm, arm's length.

As things were made and traded, more accurate means of measurement became necessary.

There is a system of traceability in place to ensure that the kilogram and metre is the same throughout the nation. The working standard weights and measures that Inspectors take out with them to test weighing and measuring equipment are tested against local standards that never leave the office. Weights are tested using equipment that the National Weights and Measures Laboratory refer back to the copy of the international prototype of the kilogram kept at their premises. The metre is defined by reference to natural constant - the speed of light. It is therefore a more perfect reference. All units are therefore defined by ultimate references to either the metre or kilogram.

The National Weights and Measures Laboratory examine patterns of weighing and measuring equipment (submitted in the UK) to determine whether their design or manufacture is such to facilitate fraud. Once such equipment has a certificate, it must conform to the pattern and pass accuracy tests carried out by an Inspector. Once the equipment has been verified or stamped by an Inspector it may be used for trade (this system is known as verification). There is also a system of European Community approval removing technical barriers to trade.

So, Inspectors of Weights and Measures (or Trading Standards Officers as they are more commonly known) visit trade premises and carry out inspections and verification of weighing and measuring equipment. Examples include counter weighing machines, weighbridges, weights, petrol pumps, spirit measuring instruments, wine and beer glasses, metre measures to name some common examples. Prepacked goods, breads, textiles etc., are tested to ensure correct weight or measure.