14. Respondents raised concerns that the Order
would remove the requirement for local authority inspectors to
verify equipment independently. This would therefore remove a
layer of protection, as approved verifiers might be subject to
a "conflict of interests" whereby they would be inclined
to be less thorough than an independent inspector and might also
be encouraged by retailers to adjust equipment to the detriment
15. The Department has stated that it believes
current procedures will continue for auditing and inspecting the
actions of approved verifiers, while existing enforcement provisions
are sufficient to act as a deterrent against false or unnecessary
16. Petrol retailers stated that adjustment would
take place more frequently if the Order allowed verification by
approved verifiers, which would lead to more accurate equipment
(which is desirable for commercial reasons) and improvements in
17. Under the current system, verifiers are approved
by a certifying body and by the National Weights and Measures
Laboratory (NWML). In addition, their work is subject to auditing
and inspection by local inspectors. Approved verifiers will remain
subject to this system.
18. During the consultation process in 1996,
in advance of the 1999 Order, concerns were raised that the introduction
of self-verification by approved verifiers would reduce the level
of consumer protection. As a result, a working party was established
to monitor the verification of petrol pumps by approved verifiers
after the 1999 Order came into force. The working party was formed
of representatives from the industry and from enforcement bodies
- it monitored verification for twelve months, reporting to the
Minister in March 2003.
19. The Explanatory Document states that the
conclusions of the working party included:
- verification by approved verifiers
had not resulted in any reduction of consumer protection.
- there was no technical difference between the
actions taken to carry out a "repair" and an "adjustment"
- "Consequently, in its report to the Minister,
the working party also concluded that there was no technical reason
not to permit self-verification of fuel dispensers following the
activity of adjustment."
20. The Department states: "Approved verifiers
are subject to stringent quality control and monitoring requirements.
They have been carrying out the technically identical task of
verification after repair satisfactorily for several years. There
is no evidence that consumer protection will be diminished as
a result of their work being extended to verification after adjustment."
In addition, NWML recommends that approval to verify equipment
after adjustment should be made conditional upon approved verifiers
continuing to inform their local authority of all verifications
within five days and also that a programme of checks on approved
verifiers should continue to be funded.
21. We support this view.
Impact on local authorities
22. Respondents also raised concerns that the
Order would lead to a reduction in funding for local authority
inspectors, who currently charge a fee for verification work,
yet an increased number of inspections would be needed in order
to check the work of approved verifiers.
23. The Department has stated that further inspections
will not be necessary because future work by approved verifiers
would itself involve an element of checking.
In addition, the current system of auditing and checking by inspectors
was established by the 1999 Order to include verification by approved
verifiers after adjustment. The anomaly in the 1999 Order, whereby
verification after adjustment is not permitted, seems to have
been oversight and not a deliberate provision. The current system
of inspections therefore already takes the proposed change into
24. We believe that the proposal has been
the subject of, and taken appropriate account of, adequate consultation.
10 See ED Annex A for identities of the consultees
and ED Annex B for details of the representations received and
the government's response to them Back
See ED Annex D for the report of the working party on approved
verification of liquid fuel dispensers Back
ED p5, paras 19-20 Back
ED p1, para 5 Back
ED p16, para 62 Back
ED p14 para 56 Back