26th August 2022

Return to imperial ‘could cost millions’

A new poll commissioned by CTSI indicates that the reintroduction of imperial measures could cost taxpayers millions of pounds.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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When many of us are thinking about pounds and pence, should we be distracted by discussions about pounds and ounces?

CTSI is urging the next Government to rethink plans to reintroduce imperial measures in light of new research which suggests the plans could cost taxpayers millions and potentially confuse consumers and businesses.

The Institute estimates that the plans would cost at least £2.2m due to the need to purchase new measurement tools and provide training to Trading Standards professionals. CTSI also commissioned a public opinion poll, which reveals deep divisions on the proposals.

The findings of the survey of 2,016 UK adults revealed:

  • The public is either divided or apathetic about the proposal – around one in four (23.66%) believed that imperial measures would enhance their shopping experience, one in four (26.34%) disagreed, and the majority (50%) were not convinced either way.
  • Almost one in five consumers (18%) said they were not confident that they could apply imperial measurements to their shopping.
  • More than half of respondents (56.4%) said they neither agreed nor disagreed that they would be more likely to shop from a business that provides imperial measures. The public was similarly split and indifferent on their likeliness to shop from a business that provides metric measures – 57.59% neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • Only about 30% of respondents aged 16-44 said they would be confident applying imperial measures, compared to around 64% of those aged 65+.

Imperial measures have not been formally taught as a part of the national curriculum since 1972, leaving an enormous gap in knowledge among consumers. Overcoming this would require new additions to the national curriculum, as well as a national public education campaign requiring TV, radio and online advertising, potentially costing millions of pounds.

CTSI, whose professional members would apply and enforce the potential changes, has warned that its members are concerned about the deeply negative impacts this could have on consumer confidence, alongside the public costs of implementing significant changes to the weights and measures regime, particularly during the cost-of-living crisis.

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “Our polling does demonstrate a broad range of views when it comes to reintroducing imperial measures. However, at a time when we are facing a cost-of-living crisis, we would question whether this measure is necessary. When many of us are thinking about pounds and pence, should we be distracted by discussions about pounds and ounces?

“During this period of economic uncertainty, maintaining business confidence and having clarity of purpose is also vital.  While this proposal is voluntary, it could place businesses in a difficult position, with ambiguity and indecision as to how to satisfy the conflicting consumer views.

“Our members, many of who are Trading Standards professionals, will naturally implement whatever is ultimately decided.  However, with Trading Standards already stretched, we are mindful of the not insignificant costs and additional burdens which the move to reintroduce imperial could have, and would therefore urge the Government to think again.”

Graham Wynn, Assistant Director of Business Regulation at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Supermarkets are focusing on delivering the best value for their customers in the face of intense inflationary pressures. Introducing new rules, even if voluntary, to change the way we measure food and drink would distract from this vital task and add unnecessary complexity for consumers. Currently, the indication of imperial measures is allowed alongside metric ones, where that is helpful for customers.”

One response to “Return to imperial ‘could cost millions’”

  1. Norrie Steed says:

    Excellent points by John Herriman and Graham Wynn.
    Utterly unnecessary and detrimental proposal .

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