Measuring instruments in trade

Trade-related measuring is part of consumers' everyday life. We weigh the fruit we buy in the supermarket, the meat we buy at the service counter is weighed, we fill up the car, buy a length of garden hose and order drinks in restaurants. Most of the time we do not put much thought into whether the amount of product bought by us is reliable. The reliability of measuring instruments used to determine price is supervised and, depending on the type of instrument, their functioning is inspected regularly. This helps ensure that consumers receive the correct amount, while traders benefit from the trading rules being the same for everyone and competition not being distorted due to unreliable measurements.

General trade must always take place using measuring instruments that meet the statutory requirements whenever the instrument is used to determine the price of products.  Product price can be determined on the basis of measures such as weight, volume or length.  All such measuring instruments must be suitable for their intended use in terms of their structure, durability, measurement accuracy and reliability.  The owner of the instrument must generally prove that the instrument meets the requirements set for it. Instrument reliability must also be verified during use. The reliability of the functioning of measuring instruments must usually be inspected at three-year intervals.


The most common measuring instruments used in trade 

  • Weighing scales. Weighing scales are used in ordinary shops at fruit and vegetable sections and service counters. Ordinary supermarket scales must be placed on a vibration-free surface. Staff-operated scales must be placed in a way that makes the readout visible to the customer.  Various types of scales are also used to weigh items such as gravel or vehicle cargo. 
  • Length measuring instruments. Length measures are used at retail outlets such as fabric, hardware and boating supply stores to measure fabrics, carpets, cables and ropes sold by length. The requirement set for measuring tapes and rigid measures is that they need to be compliant when first taken into use. The reliability of cable, carpet and other length meters must re-verified at three-year intervals.
  • Liquid fuel meters. Most people are familiar with the filling station distribution meters that are used to measure the amount of vehicle fuel bought. Liquid fuel meters are also used in contexts including tanker lorries delivering heating oil. The reliability of liquid fuel meters must be verified at two-year intervals.  
  • Cubic and cylinder measures used by market vendors. Trade by market and roadside vendors differs slightly from ordinary retail as vendors may weigh non-liquid products using measures such as traditional cubic potato measures and cylindrical berry measures to determine their volume. The reliability of these traditional market vendors' measuring instruments is not as high as that of weighing scales, but their use is allowed because market vending is small-scale and short-term in nature.
  • Instruments used to measure water, heat energy, electricity and gas consumption.
  • Restaurant beverage measures and meters.  The amount of alcoholic beverages must always be measured before serving. The measures and meters used to serve alcohol must be in compliance with the requirements unless served in glasses with approved capacity markings. Alcoholic beverages can be measured with instruments such as cylindrical alcoholic spirits measures, non-drip measures, liquor guns and metered beer taps.

What to do if you suspect the reliability of a measuring instrument?

Despite maintenance and inspections, measuring instruments can become faulty. If you as a consumer have concerns about the reliability of a measuring instrument, you should first contact its owner or the other party of the business transaction: for example, the shop manager, filling station manager or water utility and negotiate with them about your measuring event and any procedures required in the case. The Finnish supervisory authorities for measuring instruments are the Regional State Administrative Agencies and Tukes, which can be contacted where necessary.