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Buying and selling goods and services by weight and other measurements
Trade measurement laws apply to all retail and wholesale transactions where measurement determines price.
You must comply with Australia’s trade measurement laws if you:
- buy or sell goods or services by measurement (e.g. selling meat, buying gold or transporting freight by weight)
- manufacture, pack, import or sell pre-packaged goods
- supply or maintain measuring instruments used for trade
Consistency and certainty in measurement supports fair and open competition. It makes all businesses, regardless of their size or financial strength, follow the same rules.
Goods by weight and other measurements
Learn how to comply with measurement laws when buying and selling goods:
- bread and bakery products
- cane sugar and grain
- fruit and vegetables
- garden landscape materials
- liquid fuel, including petrol, diesel and LPG
- precious metals and stones
Pre-packaged goods by weight and other measurements
If you manufacture, pack, import or retail pre-packaged goods you must ensure every batch complies with legal measurement requirements.
This includes meeting requirements for:
- label size, format and placement
- the type and units of measurement used on the label
You can sell pre-packaged goods by:
- weight or volume
- number or linear or area measurement
If you supply or use a measuring instrument to determine the price when buying or selling goods and services, you must comply with measurement laws.
Measuring instruments used for trade include:
- scales (to determine weight)
- rulers (to measure length)
- petrol pumps (to measure volume)
- utility meters
- point of sale systems
Get approval for measuring instruments
We must approve the design (also called the pattern) of measuring instruments used for trade.
Find out more about pattern approval.
Verify measuring instruments
You must ensure any measuring instrument you use is:
- approved and suitable for its intended purpose
- verified by a licensed technician (servicing licensee) before use
Learn more about servicing licensees.
To find a servicing licensee near you, email email@example.com
Maintain measuring instruments
In addition, you must:
- ensure the instrument is accurate at all times while in use for trade
- use it correctly
- keep it clean and in good working order
- have it re-verified after repair or adjustment
To assist in meeting your obligations under the law, we recommend you have a servicing licensee check the instrument regularly.
Our role in trade measurement law
The National Measurement Institute (NMI) administers laws that cover:
- definition of the legal units of measurement
- approval and use of measuring instruments for trade
- testing and verification of these measuring instruments
- transactions by measurement
- pre-packaged articles (including labelling requirements)
- licensing of the businesses that verify trade measuring instruments
- licensing of public weighbridges
- appointment of legal metrology authorities
We aim to provide a high quality service. You can learn more about our public commitment on service standards and delivery for our customers and stakeholders in the Legal Metrology Service Charter.
Trade measurement inspections
To ensure traders comply with the law, we employ trade measurement inspectors. An inspector can visit your business at any reasonable time of day. You might be inspected:
- in response to a complaint or enquiry from a consumer
- as part of a trade measurement compliance program
To find out more about our compliance activities, read our:
Tips for consumers
You can help ensure traders comply with measurement laws.
- Check the quantity statement on the goods you buy.
- Make sure you have a clear view of scales when you buy goods by weight over the counter. The trader must place the scales must so you can see the weight, price per kilogram, total price and goods being weighed. If not, they should provide you with a written statement of the measurement.
- Ensure scales display zero weight before the trader weighs your goods.
- Make sure there are no other items on the scales and the trader only weighs the goods you are purchasing when they calculate the price.
- Check the price per kilogram on the scales matches the advertised price.
- Check the total price on the scales is the price you’re charged at the checkout.
- Check your receipt to ensure the calculated price matches the advertised price.
- Pay only for the product, not the packaging material. In many stores, traders set the electronic checkout scales to automatically deduct the weight of the packaging during the weighing process. In other stores, staff manually set the scale to deduct the weight of the packaging materials. For example, when you buy apples in a plastic bag you should only pay for the apples. If you buy potato salad at the deli counter you should only pay for the salad, not for the weight of the plastic container.
- If you are not present while the goods are measured, make sure you get a receipt that states the measurement used.
- At the service station, after you have picked up the nozzle and before you start filling your fuel tank, make sure the display of the fuel dispenser is indicating all zeros on the volume and total price indicators.
- Find certificates of approval for measuring instruments
- Find National Measurement Institute offices and locations
To find out more about trade measurement laws or report a suspected breach contact the trade measurement helpline:
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone 1300 686 664
- National Measurement Institute
Last updated: 8 December 2020
Content ID: 52623