In the guide

Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union, certain pieces of legislation (formally known as 'retained EU law') will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU regulations in our guidance.

This guidance is for England and Wales

There has recently been a surge in the number of shops selling goods to consumers in pots, jars, bottles and other containers that are provided by the consumers themselves.

There are a number of guides that cover these business practices and the types of goods sold, and business owners should familiarise themselves with them.

Food

Food in refill shops is sold in a manner known as non-prepacked. Non-prepacked food has fewer labelling requirements than prepacked food but businesses must still provide consumers with certain information. See 'Labelling of non-prepacked foods' for more information.

Allergen labelling is particularly important for food items, and new requirements will be coming into force in October 2021. For more information see 'Food allergens and intolerance'.

You must ensure that the containers you sell your food products from, as well as any smaller containers that you sell to consumers who don't have their own, are suitable for food use. More information can be found in 'Food contact materials'. However, you are not responsible for ensuring that the containers consumers provide themselves are suitable.

Back to top

Product safety

If you sell shampoos, moisturisers, etc you need to ensure that what you sell is safe and correctly labelled. More information on these types of product can be found in 'Cosmetic products'.

For non-prepacked products, it may not be possible to label the products themselves; in these circumstances, information regarding precautions and ingredients can be given on leaflets, labels, tags or cards. 

You need to take particular precautions for products containing certain substances. One example would be for substances that may contain biocides, such as hand sanitisers, which are regulated by Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products (now that the UK has left the EU, this is known as GB BPR).

Another example would be for products containing active substances such as those found in cleaning products, detergents or bleaches; these are governed by Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances (GB CLP). The label or leaflet for products governed by GB CLP must include the following:

  • name, address and telephone number of the UK supplier
  • product identifiers - for example, chemical name and CAS / EC number of the substance
  • the hazard pictogram
  • the signal word (either 'Warning' or 'Danger' depending on the classification)
  • the relevant hazard statement(s) that describe the hazardous effect - for example 'Harmful if inhaled'
  • the appropriate precautionary statements to allow the user of the chemical to take measures to protect health / environment - for example, 'Keep out of reach of children'
  • the nominal quantity (which is the declared quantity as marked on the container when the chemical is supplied prepacked to the general public)
  • obligatory supplementary information includes hazard statements taken from the previous chemical legislation - for example, EUH001 Explosive when dry and EUH204 Contains isocyanates. May produce an allergic reaction

There is also information that is non-obligatory supplementary information under GB CLP - for example, instructions for use. However, if the product relies on following instructions in order to be used safely, then these should be included on the label.

Further information on GB BPR and GB CLP can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. 

Back to top

Weights and measures

The weighing and measuring of the products you sell is covered by trading standards law.

The weight of products sold into customers' own refill containers must be in metric quantities - grams or kilograms - and must be determined using legally approved equipment. There are very specific requirements for the type of equipment that must be used, details of which can be found in 'Weighing equipment for legal use'

It is important to determine the weight of products sold before they are placed into the customer's container; this will ensure that only the weight of the product is being charged for. Alternatively, the customer's container may be weighed before it is filled so that the container weight may be deducted from the total, or the 'tare' function on weighing equipment can be used to remove the weight of a container from the weighing process.  

If liquid products are sold by volume, legally approved 'Government stamped' equipment must be used, and the products must be sold in millilitres or litres.

Please contact your local trading standards service if further advice and information is required regarding appropriate weighing and measuring equipment, or the requirements for the measurement of particular products.

Back to top

Pricing

Pricing is also important, of course, and details of the requirements can be found in 'Providing price information'. This guide also includes a list of the units in which products must be sold - for example, price per 100 g.

Back to top

Trading standards

For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.

Back to top

Key legislation

Weights and Measures Act 1985

Food Safety Act 1990

Weighing Equipment (Non-automatic Weighing Machines) Regulations 2000

Price Marking Order 2004

Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food

Regulation (EC) No 1895/2005 on the restriction of use of certain epoxy derivatives in materials and articles intended to come into contact with food

Regulation (EC) No 2023/2006 on good manufacturing practice for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food

Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

Regulation (EC) No 450/2009 on active and intelligent materials and articles intended to come into contact with food

Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 on cosmetic products

Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances 

Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers

Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012

Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Wales) Regulations 2012

Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products

Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013

Food Information Regulations 2014

Food Information (Wales) Regulations 2014

Non-automatic Weighing Instruments Regulations 2016

 

Last reviewed / updated: July 2021

 

In this update

The product safety section has been expanded and brief information about the upcoming change to allergen-labelling law has been added

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.

What type of feedback would you like to leave
1a-User type
2a-User type
3a-User type
4a-User type

Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

2b-business-generic-fieldset
How many years have you been trading?
How many employees are there in your business?

Business enquiries are dealt with by your local council. Use the Chartered Trading Standards Institute's postcode finder to locate your local trading standards team.

Are you satisfied? Did this site answer your question?