In the guide

If you weigh or measure goods to sell to consumers, the law states that your equipment must be both suitable and accurate

The law also covers the manufacture and approval of this equipment, and lays down requirements about specific quantities in which certain goods must be sold.

What's covered

Generally the law requires the majority of food, drink and other goods sold to the public to have their quantities indicated for the customer. This includes goods that are weighed or measured at the customer's request or packaged ready for sale.

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Quantities

Nearly all measurable goods must have their quantities stated in metric amounts - for example, kilograms, litres or metres. Note that the pint must be used for draught beer, lager and cider; milk in returnable bottles may also be sold by the pint.

Equivalent 'imperial' quantities - such as pounds, ounces, pints and yards - can be given in addition to the required metric indications, but they must not be more prominent.

Some products have to be sold in particular or 'prescribed' quantities:

  • unwrapped loaves of bread: 400g or 800g
  • beer, lager and cider: 1/3 pint, 1/2 pint, 2/3 pint or multiples of 1/2 pint
  • wine: 125ml, 175ml or multiples of 125ml or 175ml
  • whisky, gin, rum or vodka: 25ml or 35ml or multiples of 25ml or 35ml

For detailed information, check the specific In-depth Guides below for the items you sell.

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Labelling

Consumers must be able to see what the quantity is for goods required to be sold by weight or measure. This must be included on the products' labels. Some fruit and vegetables are not included as they can be counted easily through the packaging. See Quantities above for information on the prominence of the quantity information.

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Price marking

Non-prepacked goods that are weighed at the request of the customer must have their unit price indicated to the customer by price per kilogram. The price per pound can be given in addition, provided it is not more prominent than the metric price.

Although they are not required to, some traders add the price per 100 grams for high-value goods such as cheese and meat to give a more meaningful price indication to consumers.

Some goods traditionally sold in smaller quantities are allowed to be priced in smaller units where this allows the customer a better indication of the value of the goods.

Examples of this are sugar confectionery and chocolate, herbs, spices and coffee - these can be price marked per 100 grams.

In larger self-service shops, goods that are sold by weight or measure are required to display an equivalent unit price for goods sold with an indication of quantity - for example, equivalent price per 100 grams (or 100ml). This is to allow consumers to compare the relative values of similar products that are sold in different quantities.

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Weighing & measuring equipment

Equipment that is used to weigh or measure goods for consumers must be suitable for the quantity being determined and accurate within specific tolerances.

Equipment used for consumer sales is required to be 'government stamped', as it's known. This refers to markings that show the equipment has been made to a particular standard and meets accuracy requirements.

Government stamps generally take the form of either:

  • a lead plug embedded into the equipment on which is stamped a numbered crown and year
    ... or
  • a series of stickers attached to the equipment

Information plates on some equipment also give other required details.

Measuring equipment that has tested as inaccurate or no longer conforms with other requirements will have a six-pointed star stamped on or attached to it. Look out for this if you're buying second-hand equipment.

Stamps & stickers
You can find out more about the various types of stickers and stamps you will come across in the In-depth Guide 'Weighing equipment for legal use'

Construction requirements, measuring capacity and accuracy tolerances requirements also vary with the value of the goods being sold. Equipment used to buy and sell gold, silver, etc has different requirements to that used to sell potatoes.

Here are some examples of weighing and measuring equipment (consumer sales) that are required to be stamped:

  • weighing machines:
    - used for fruit and vegetables, sweets, meat, fish, postal services, etc
  • measures of volume:
    - beer glasses and automatic measuring meters
    - alcoholic spirits measures ('optics') and 'thimble' measures
    - wine glasses and carafes
    - petrol pumps
  • length measures:
    - commonly known as 'yardsticks' but which must now be metre measures used for material, fabrics, ribbon, electrical cable, etc
    - flexible tapes - used for carpet and other floor coverings
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Inspections

New weighing and measuring equipment intended for legal use - that is, for determining the quantity of goods sold - has to be manufactured to an evaluated and approved type, called a 'type examination certificate' (TEC). This means that the design and construction of the equipment must have been evaluated, approved and certificated by UK or European legislation and have the appropriate required markings and details attached to it.

This equipment is then subject to periodic inspection for accuracy and continued conformity by trading standards officers who are qualified in weights and measures.

These inspections will be scheduled at intervals determined by the use that the equipment is put to and the likelihood that it may wear and become inaccurate. They could be as frequent as every six months or as far apart as five years.

If weighing and measuring equipment is found to be not of the required accuracy when inspected, the inspecting officer may issue instructions to have the equipment adjusted.

For more serious discrepancies, the officer may 'reject' the equipment, thus revoking its qualifying stamp with the six-pointed star (above). This means that the equipment cannot be used again until it has been repaired to the requirements of the TEC and re-stamped.

Where serious fraud is suspected involving the use of weighing and measuring equipment it could be seized, followed by possible legal proceedings.

For more detailed information please see the In-depth Guides below. Once you've finished, make sure you look at the full range of Quick Guides to see whether there are any other areas of law that affect your business.

Before you start
Make sure you choose your location using the drop-down list at the top of the page. The In-depth Guides provide country-specific information as some laws are different in England, Scotland and Wales, and some are enforced differently
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In-depth guidance

This is a general guide and you may well need to know more; take a look below where we've listed our In-depth Guides on specific topics related to weights and measures

General

Price marking of goods for retail sale

When selling goods, in most circumstances the consumer must be informed of the selling price in writing

Packaged goods: average quantity

An overview of 'average quantity' and what is required of packers or importers of packaged products

The sale & delivery of oil & gas

It is essential that oil and gas are accurately weighed or measured when sold and delivered

The sale of solid fuel & wood fuel

The weight of solid fuel must be specified; this also applies to wood if a relevant bye-law exists, or you opt to show weight

Food and drink

The sale of alcohol in licensed premises

Requirements for the sale of alcohol in pubs, restaurants, etc

Small bakers & average weight

The three rules of packing to the average-weight system for small bakers

Weights & measures for butchers

Requirements for butchers regarding products sold loose and/or prepacked

Weights & measures for fishmongers

Requirements for fishmongers regarding products sold loose and/or prepacked

Weights & measures for greengrocers

Requirements for greengrocers regarding products sold loose and/or prepacked

Equipment and instruments

Weighing equipment for legal use

Weighing equipment that is used for legal and trading purposes is required to be accurate and appropriate for its purpose

Feedback

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.

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.