.@ Tony Finch – blog

My response to the UK government consultation on using imperial units of measure for retail.

Regarding the foreword to the consultation description, my children were weighed in kilos at birth, so whoever wrote the foreword must be wery old, and talking about babies who are now grown adults.

And for metrological purposes, British weights and measures have been derived from the metric system since the international convention on the metre in 1875 and the production of the new metric prototypes in London in 1898, because the metric standards were made to a higher quality with greater reliability than the old imperial standards. So it’s incorrect to say that we started adopting the metric system in 1995; that was actually when we started abolishing imperial (and that was at the initiative of the UK government, not the EU).

oops, I should have mentioned that the tories were in power in 1995

Q. 1 for all,

1 a) Are there any specific areas of consumer transactions that should be a priority for allowing a choice in units of measurement, and why?

None, because there is no need to make it more confusing to compare sizes and prices.

1 b) Are there any specific areas that you think should be excluded from a choice in units of measurement, and why?

There should be a single set of standard units of measure so that it is as easy as possible to compare the sizes and prices of goods, especially (e.g.) price per kilo or price per litre.

1 c) If an item is sold in imperial measures, should there be a requirement for a metric equivalent alongside it?

Metric measures should always be required, and there should always be clear labelling showing the price per some power of 10 (e.g. 100g or 1kg)

Q. 2 for businesses,

n/a (I am replying as an individual)

Q. 3 for consumers,

3 a) If you had a choice, would you want to purchase items:

I always want to purchase items in metric (preferably a round number when measured in metric units), and I want it to be easy to find the quantity labelled in metric.

3 b) Are you more likely to shop from businesses that sell in imperial units?

I am likely to avoid shops that use imperial units, because the measurements will be confusing and unfamiliar.

3 c) Do you foresee any costs or benefits to you from businesses being permitted to sell:

I expect it will be detrimental to allow businesses to sell in imperial units only, because it will make it easier for them to confuse customers, misprice goods, and hide their malpractice.

3 d) Do you have experience of buying solely in imperial units?

I am 47 years old and I cannot remember when imperial measures were in wide use for anything except milk and beer.

Milk, for example, is often confusing when 2 litre bottles are sold alongside 4 pint bottles, and I have to carefully examine the labels to find out which is the larger volume and what is the price per litre of the 4 pint bottle.

For beer, how can I compare a pint bottle and a 33cl bottle? It’s relatively easy for 50cl vs 33cl because the ratio is 3/2. In practice I think of a pint as about half a litre, so I can compare in metric. And, when I am served beer in a pub in a pint-to-brim glass, what I usually get is closer to half a litre than a pint.

Q. 4 for trading standards,

n/a (I am replying as an individual)