Weights and Measures Act

Weights and Measures Act

A Weights and Measures Act is an Act of Parliament determining trade law where the weight or size of the goods being traded are important. For example, if a bottle of milk is for sale and has a label saying it contains one pint, then the law states that it must contain that amount.

United Kingdom

There have been many Weights and Measures Acts in the United Kingdom. Some other Commonwealth countries, such as India, also use the same terminology for similar pieces of legislation. The terms of the acts are currently enforced by the 200 Trading Standards Offices managed by local authorities around the country. Definitions of units of measurements and the provision of the technical equipment relating to weights and measures are in the UK provided by the National Weights and Measures Laboratory, an agency of the Department for Trade and Industry.

In the United Kingdom, the current primary legislation is the Weights and Measures Act 1985. The most recent piece of secondary legislation is the Weights and Packaged Goods Regulations 2006. Many other statutory instruments also govern particular areas of trade. A comprehensive list of still relevant Acts and Orders for England and Wales may be found at [http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/legislation/tsew.rtf tradingstandards.gov.uk] (Rich Text Format file).

Dual System

For more than 100 years imperial units of measure have not been the only units of measurement in the United Kingdom. In fact, as Lord Justice Laws noted in Thoburn v Sunderland City Council (the so-called "Metric Martyrs case"), the use of both metric and imperial units of measure has been permitted in the United Kingdom from the nineteenth century onwards. As Section 1 of the Weights and Measures Act 1963 provided: " [t] he yard or the metre shall be the unit of measurement of length and the pound or the kilogram shall be the unit of measurement of mass by reference to which any measurement involving a measurement of length or mass shall be made in the United Kingdom"."

There is no legislation outlawing the use of imperial units of measure on goods. All that is required is that the equivalent metric units also be displayed. Directive 80/181/EEC (as amended by Directive 89/617/EEC) units of measurement included in Chapter III of its Annex, including the imperial measure, could be used until 31 December 1999. This deadline was later extended. Following popular opposition to attempts to force people in Britain to use metric measurements European Commissioner Günter Verheugen stated on 11 September 2007 that not only were there no plans to oblige the United Kingdom to abandon the imperial measure, but also that european legislation would be enacted to guarantee the future use of the imperial unit. [cite news | first=Günter | last=Verheugen | coauthors= | title=Exclusive: Your pint safe in EU hands | date=11 September 2007 | publisher= | url =http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/frontpage/11092007_en.htm | work = | pages = | accessdate = 2007-11-10 | language = ]

Historic Acts of Parliament

Acts include (note this list may not be complete for very early date):
*"False Weights and Scales Act 1770"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1795"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1797"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1815"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1824"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1825"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1834"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1855"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1859"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1878"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1889"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1904"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1926"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1936"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1963"
*"Weights and Measures etc Act 1976"
*"Weights and Measures Act 1985"

Comparable laws in other countries

United States

In the U.S. a regular meeting of the states (the National Conference on Weights and Measures) maintains several handbooks, which are [http://ts.nist.gov/WeightsAndMeasures/ available] at the web site of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. [http://ts.nist.gov/WeightsAndMeasures/upload/stlaw.pdf Most] of the states have enacted these handbooks into law.


*UK-SLD|2191980|the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (c. 72)
*UK-SLD|1479224|the Weights and Measures &c. Act 1976 (c.77)
* [http://www.dti.gov.uk/consumers/buying-selling/weights-measures/page8844.html Confident Consumers - Buying and Selling - Weights and Measures from the Department of Trade and Industry]
* [http://www.ex.ac.uk/cimt/dictunit/dictunit.htm A Dictionary of Units from Exeter University]
* [http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2002/195.html Thoburn v Sunderland City Council (2002)]

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