BWMA - campaigning for inch-pound industries and consumer interests



Consumer Affairs

Business Issues

The Political Front

The Legal Campaign

Metric Transport and Signs

International Trade

Join the Action

Metric Culprits

British Business Speaks Out

There are five broad reasons why the business community opposes the compulsory use of metric units:

  • traders risk being criminalised;
  • it represents unnecessary and unproductive regulation;
  • conversion to metric is expensive;
  • metric conflicts with longstanding business practices;
  • customers are more familiar with UK units.

Don't take BWMA's word for it. Read below for what businesses say - in their own words.

National Business Associations

Chambers of Commerce

Agricultural Associations


National Business Associations

Federation of Small Businesses "Some 97% of businesses in Britain employ less than twenty people. The FSB is the country's largest representative of small businesses with 116,000 members running around 250,000 businesses. The FSB opposes compulsory metrication. The cost of metrication is much higher than generally realised. This is because every penny spent by a firm on new metric equipment requires three times that amount to be generated in terms of turnover to make sufficient profit to cover the cost. In other words, a business will have to make sales of £3,000 before it can meet the cost of a metric weighing machine priced at £1,000. Even a relatively modest outlay such as £40 for a steel metric rule becomes expensive to afford at £120 of turnover.

There are thousands of such weighing and measuring instruments to be replaced, often fixed to walls and counters, plus pricing machines, rubber stamps, price lists, notices, signboards and advertising materials. Many business proprietors pay themselves no more than £10,000 meaning that for them, and other business people on income support, metrication could prove ruinous. The Federation is particularly concerned with the use of criminal penalties. Why should businesses risk the threat of severe financial penalties and the stigma of criminalisation simply by pricing, quoting and trading in the imperial units customers actually prefer?

Whether British shops use imperial or metric is entirely a matter for Britain under the EU principle of subsidiarity. It is of no interest to the citizens of Berlin whether people in Birmingham and Bournemouth buy goods in pounds and ounces. We ask that the government repeals compulsory metrication, thereby helping small businesses in a very real, tangible and relatively simply manner".
National Association of Self Employed "It is inconceivable that a retailer can be classed as committing a criminal offence for selling, say, potatoes by the pound. Thirty years ago, retailing was a fairly simply operation. This is no longer the case. In view of the complexity of the many regulations to which retailers must conform, is there any wonder that the independent shopkeepers' numbers are dramatically reducing?

It is not only the question of competition which frustrates traders but also the efforts which they have to make, and the expenses which they incur, in adhering to regulations which are drawn up without any thought to the consequences which result. It is obvious that the instigators of compulsory metircation and other such regulations are not retailers and have little or no connection with the retail trade, nor have any degree of realism as to the consequences of legislation imposed.

It is a fact of life that most customers request retailers of whatever product to supply those products in customary measures. To impose fines or imprisonment upon retailers for entering into transactions whihc are to customers' satisfaction, but which do not involve metric weights and measures, is absurd. We hope that common sense prevails, and that proposals to repeal compulsory metrication are successful".
National Federation of Retail Newsagents "...totally supports the proposal to repeal compulsory metrication. This legislation can only be considered draconian in the light of many customers wishing to continue to purchase in imperial measures. For the retailer to be subject to criminal law with fines up to £5,000 for failure to comply is regulation gone mad! The NFRN supports the view that this legilsation be repealed and subsidiarity in the UK be obtained for the use of imperial weights and measures".

The Forum of Private Business "The Forum does not support compuslory metrication. Retailers and manufacturers have a wide range of issues to consider when using weights and measures, including consumer expectations, conventions of business and demands of overseas markets. These considerations vary from industry to industry, between different product ranges, and for different groups [of customers]. It is a simple fact that the metric system does not satisfy all these needs. Consumers are neither ready for, nor, it seems, willing, to embrace the metric system for all purposes, and many goods (eg computer accessories) need to be described in imperial.

We are particularly concerned with the proposed metrication of foods sold loose from bulk. There can be no merit on making thousands of fresh produce traders change their units of measurement when the system of pounds and ounces works perfectly well and is preferred by consumers. Such a change would be costly due to the need to convert weighing equipment, yet offers no material benefit to either traders or consumers.

With regards to US trade, we understand that the EC is to propose that imperial units be allowed as "supplementary indicators" for ten years. While this lifts immediate pressure from exporters, we would point out that there is not the slightest possibility of hte US going metric by 2010. Short of repealing the EC directive, an indefinite use of indicators would seem more appropriate.

As long as the metric system remains available, we see no advantage in making it compulsory. In accordance with this view, we believe that there should be no penalties attached to the use of imperial units. We regard the current criminal sanctions as excessive and disproportate, particularly since the nature of the offence does not amount to fraud or deception. We hope that the government repeals compulsory metrication and retains the imperial system as a legal alternative".
National Market Traders' Federation "...has 26,000 members, many of whom sell loose goods from bulk. The loss of the exclusive use of pounds and ounces would require them to invest in new weighing equipment which could represent a significant investment to them. I am sure that this would also be the case for many other small retailers, for example corner shops, who like market traders have to trade on tight margins to compete against the major retail chains...[the Federation] finds it abhorrent that non-compliance with the regulations should be classified as a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison".

Chambers of Commerce

Newham Chamber of Commerce  "All members, and particularly retailers, are most concerned about [compulsory metrication]....The Chamber is totally opposed to the DTI's adoption of criminal penalties, especially as these were not required by the EC directives that the DTI is seeking to enforce...Measures other than metric are used around the world and, while metric measures are often more appropriate, there are circumstances where they are not. We feel that it is wrong to forcibly bring everybody down to the lowest common denominator, ie stop the use of measurements other than metric because some people have been unfortunate enough not to have had a balanced education; rather, promote education of our rich and historical culture..."
Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Industry "...the impostition of criminal penalties was heavy handed and unnecessary. The Committee there agreed to support...a Deregulation Order [to repeal compulsory use of metric]". Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce "...fully supports the proposal to repeal compulsory metrication...the general public on the whole still think of UK measures when making purchases".
Bath Chamber of Commerce "...the DTI was being excessively zealous in adopting unnecessary legal penalties...we support your initiative".
Chester Chamber of Trade and Commerce "...supports the case for repealing the directive on the basis that retailers and manufacturers should be allowed flexibility in the choice of measuring and weighing systems, due to consideratoins of cost, convention, customer preference and export...this flawed EU directive cannot be seriously regarded as even achievable".
Derbyshire Business Chamber "We are equally concerned that the DTI should adopt a Draconian penalty system against British traders who deal in non-metric units. We would certainly support all deregulation and are particularly concerned about this unnecessary measure".
Havering Chamber of Commerce and Industry "...support your organisation in their initiative to repeal compulsory metrication by means of a parliamentary Deregulation Order".
North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry "...supports the Deregulation Order and hopes that your initiative is successful".
Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and Industry "...supports the BWMA iniative in opposing compulsory metrication".
Brentford Chamber of Commerce "...is greatly opposed to retailers being under the threat of prosecution for using customary UK weights and measures". 
Burnley and District Chamber of Trade "This matter was put before the Chamber's October meeting and it was unanimously agreed that I should write to you on behalf of members pledging our support for the all-Party proprosal to repeal compulsory metrication".
Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Industry "...supports any measure which would remove a legislative burden on business...proposing the repeal of compulsory metrication therefore has our endorsement".
Rochdale Chamber of Commerce, Trade and Industry Offers "...support to the forthcoming all-Party proposal to repeal compulsory metrication".
Camden Chamber of Commerce "I have been discussing withour members the issues raised in your letter and received almost an unanimous answer in favour of supporting your proposal to repeal compulsory metrication".
North Derbyshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry "...the retailers of Chesterfield share your concerns regarding the DTI's adoption of criminal penalties, particularly since they were not required by the European Community directives. They believe the cost of enforcing the penalties would overload an already burdened criminal system and bring no tangible benefit to the fabric of British society".
Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce "...there are a number of us to whom pounds and inches are still important. The Chamber...believes that criminal penalties for anyone continuing to offer goods in non-metric units is draconian to say the least".
Lisburn Chamber of Commerce "...strongly oppose the treating of this offence as a criminal activity. We therefore support your initiative to repeal compulsory metrication by means of a parliamentary Deregulation Order. Wishing you every success in your efforts".
Brent Chamber of Commerce "...is pleased to support proposals to repeal compulsory metrication".
Havering Chamber of Commerce and Industry "[supports]...initiative to repeal compulsory metrication".
Shepton Mallet & District Chamber of Commerce "...supports you initiative...members oppose compulsory metrification and the DTI's adoption of criminal penalties".
Teignmouth Chamber of Commerce "...all traders concerned are very much opposed to the new regulations. We wish you well in your efforts".

Agricultural Associations

Hertfordshire Agricultural Society "Our position on this matter is that our members are subject to far too many superfluous rules and regulations and that, like the majority of the population, they wish to go about their daily lives unhindered by unwanted and unproductive legislation...metrication will gradually become a business necessity for many traders. For many others, however, it will be seen as an unwelcome and unnecessary expense which benefits neither their customers or themselves. In view of this, a voluntary system would appear to be by far the most sensible course...our society is pleased to confirm support for your initiative and wish you every success in your efforts".
East of England Agricultural Society "...[members] oppose the use of compulsion in metrication and the adoption of criminal penalties".
Yorkshire Agricultural Society "On behalf of the membership of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, the Executive Committee supports the BWMA campaign to repeal compulsory metrication by means of a Deregulation Order, the effect of which would be to remove from retailers the threat of prosecution for using customary UK weights and measures".

Cheshire Agricultural Society "...the introduction of metrication in weighing goods should be on a voluntary basis and should not be introduced as a compulsory measure. We wish [BWMA] every success in the initiative..."

County Antrim Agricultural Association "...are in agreement with [BWMA's] points of opposition and wish you every success with this endeavour".

Lincolnshire Agricultural Society "...the proposed move scheduled for 2000 will cause great difficulty to many small traders in this country...there is a need to retain tradition".

Surrey County Agricultural Society "...metrication should be voluntary".

Monmouthshire Show Society Ltd "...thoroughly endorse [BWMA's] views on this legislation...May we wish you luck in your endeavours".


Rock Oil Lubricants and Fuels, Cheshire  "...pleased to hear that the government is now undertaking a reappraisal of the metrication issue, particularly the effect that metric-only labelling would have on UK exports to the USA. As an exporter of lubricants to the USA, Rock Oil is compelled to show volume on packaging in gallons. Therefore, the news that the British government is obliged to implement the EC directive as from January 1st, 2000 seems short sighted and, in the long-term, difficult to achieve".
Inveresk Artists Papers, Somerset "...should like to register support for repealing the [EC metric directive]. We are producers of traditional artists papers to a [UK] market which refers to the weight of paper in lbs per ream - whatever legislation is passed! In addition to this, our major export market is the USA which only uses imperial measurements. As a result of this, our product labels list both metric and imperial and all products in our warehouse are labelled in this way. If we follow this directive, all exports to the USA would require relabelling prior to despatch with significant cost implications".

Back to Business Issues

Material Copyright © 2001 BWMA. Visitors are free to reproduce information in part or in full on the condition that www.bwmaOnline.com is acknowledged.