Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Seventh Report

What the draft Order proposes:

1.  Many pieces of weighing and measuring equipment, in the UK and throughout the European Economic Area, are subject to a system of prescription.[1] This system regulates the accuracy of the equipment by testing it before it is put on the market and/or when it is first installed ("initial verification") and when it is repaired or adjusted in a way which may affect its accuracy ("subsequent verification"). Equipment is "stamped" or marked to indicate that it has passed the verification test.[2]

2.  The provisions governing the verification of equipment are contained in a range of legislation and have been subject to a series of changes since the 1985 Act. Before 1993, local authority inspectors carried out all verification. In 1999, the Deregulation (Weights and Measures) Order 1999[3] ("the 1999 Order") amended the Weights and Measures Act 1985 ("the 1985 Act") and introduced a system of verification by approved verifiers as an alternative to inspectors. A system for auditing approved verifiers, together with inspection, was put in place in order to ensure consumer protection. Regulations to implement the Measuring Instruments Directive[4] and Regulations to implement the Non-automatic Weighing Instruments Directive[5] (as amended) have since extended the functions of approved verifiers concerning various types of equipment.

3.  "Approved verifiers" are manufacturers, installers or repairers of prescribed equipment. They may apply for approval to verify equipment which they have manufactured, installed or repaired themselves. Final approval is required from the National Weights and Measures Laboratory and is subject to regular renewal.

4.  Approved verifiers are restricted by the provisions of section 11A of the 1985 Act, as inserted by the 1999 Order. Currently this section permits subsequent verification only after the approved verifiers have manufactured, installed or repaired equipment. It does not allow for verification of equipment which they have subjected to adjustment.[6] The draft Order seeks to amend the Weights and Measures Act 1985 in order to overcome this anomalous situation and to permit the verification of equipment by approved verifiers after adjustment.

5.  The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills says that the petrol retailing industry is the only sector likely to be significantly affected by the change.[7] Petrol pumps need to be adjusted more frequently than many other kinds of equipment, as their accuracy "drifts" due to wear and tear. Retailers are permitted to operate pumps with a margin of error between -0.5% and +1%. The "repair" of equipment includes the fixing of defects or the alteration of settings if a pump is operating outside the permitted margin of error. However, if a pump is operating within that margin, this would not amount to a "repair" but would instead be a simple "adjustment." The same technical procedure is involved in altering the settings: the difference lies only in the degree to which they are altered.

1   "Prescription" in this case means equipment used for trade which is subject to statutory checking requirements. Back

2   "Verification" is the term given to the statutory check that equipment operates accurately. Back

3   S.I. 1999/503 Back

4   Measuring Instruments Directive (2004/22/EC) Back

5   Non-automatic Weighing Instruments Directive (90/384/EEC) as amended by Directive 93/68/EEC Back

6   "Adjustment" takes place where equipment which is operating within the legal margin of error is adjusted to make it more accurate.  Back

7   ED p6 para 23 Back

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Prepared 14 November 2008