Fair measurement for retailers

Rules for trade are needed to ensure that a market is free and fair. Rules should ensure that the market is not distorted through dubious practices and that as a result some traders are disadvantaged by the questionable practices of others. UK Metric Association is convinced that with a confused government measurement unit policy over several decades, exacerbated by regulative loopholes, market distortions in Britain are commonplace.

UKMA stands for a level playing field for retailers. Therefore UKMA stands against dubious measurement unit practices that confuse the market and potentially give unfair advantages to those who exploit confused customers. UKMA also stands for improvement of current British regulation to ensure a fair market for retailers.

UKMA stands for four key principles to protect the retailer to ensure a transparent and fair market:

  1. Standard units of measurement to allow accurate comparison of like goods with like;
  2. A standardised unit price to support price transparency;
  3. Standard units of measurement and clear rules for quantitative information in product descriptions and adverts;
  4. For goods measured at the point of sale: properly calibrated measuring instruments to ensure that what is measured fairly represents what is requested.

In 1971, Britain managed to replace old "Roman" pounds, shillings and pence with modern decimal currency. The transition – despite dire warnings from prophets of doom – was very successful. The key reasons for this success was the investment that the Government made in ensuring that both consumers and retailers were properly educated on the change and that the old currency was taken out of circulation as quickly as possible.

In contrast imperial units have been slowly and painfully replaced by metric units and the transition is not even complete. There has been neither an investment in public information to prepare the public to cope with this change nor a programme to take imperial units "out of circulation". As a result many traders have borne the brunt of a confused public.

The lack of a clean transition from imperial to metric has left the door open for practices which distort the market. For example, between 2000 and 2009 although official measurements must be metric, supplementary pricing in imperial is allowed. Furthermore the fact that rules for advertising seem ambiguous has led some players to choose units that give the cheapest impression regardless of the actual price to the consumer.

One example is the selling of carpets. Prices must be quoted per square metre (m2) at the point of sale, yet are frequently priced per square yard in advertisements. If a price is advertised per square yard it will seem to be about 84% of the equivalent price per square metre. On the other hand if a reduction is expressed as so many pence per square metre it will seem a bigger reduction than the equivalent reduction per square yard.

A fair market demands that the same units and practices are used by all retailers. Distortions caused by confused units should be eliminated for the sake of fair trade.