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Buying and selling goods and services by weight and other measurements

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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:

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:

See our Guide to the sale of pre-packaged goods.

Measuring instruments

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:

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 tmlicensees@measurement.gov.au

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:

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.

Read more 

Contact us

To find out more about trade measurement laws or report a suspected breach contact the trade measurement helpline:

Last updated: 17 February 2020

Content ID: 52623