During the last quarter of 2008 there was a lot of confusion over metrication prosecutions and enforcement of the metrication laws generally.  Following the prosecution of a market trader in London and the publicity surrounding her conviction and the fine imposed a Government Minister was quoted in some parts of the media as saying local authorities should not prosecute anyone  for selling goods by the lb. and ounce in the future. Understandably this caused a lot of confusion and concern.

It now transpires that the Government Minister concerned did not make those quotes and what he did say – that the penalties for trading in lb. and ounces should be proportionate and realistic – were interpreted by some newspapers as a blanket ban on prosecutions!. This is not the case.

The Minister and DIUS, the Government Department responsible for Weights and Measures, have made it plain that whether a trader who sells goods by the lb. and the ounce should be prosecuted or not is a matter solely for the local weights and measures authority to determine. The Government has not backtracked on metrication and the law is unchanged. The metric system remains the basis on which trade should be carried out, supplementary indications in imperial units are permitted as long as they are not more prominent that the metric units.

When deciding whether or not to prosecute for selling goods other than in metric quantities a Local Weights and Measures Authority will take a number of things into consideration; the traders previous conduct, the extent of the damage to the consumer and/or other traders, the various other sanctions available, and the extent to which a prosecution would be in the public interest.

For UKWF Members the situation is unchanged: traders who are selling goods by weight should be using verified weighing instruments; only weighing instruments operating in the metric system can be verified; in order to safeguard their own position under the law UKWF members who are asked to repair or supply weighing instruments that operate in units other than metric should advise their customers of the legal requirement to trade in metric units only.