Feds planning to return to verifying weights and measures after long absence

OTTAWA – The federal government wants companies to regularly verify the accuracy of their weigh-scales and other measuring devices, a move it says will save small businesses millions of dollars.

Regulations announced Friday would cover a broad range of goods, from gasoline and fish to grains and dairy.

Industry Canada says the proposed rules would benefit the economy by about $573 million over the next decade, once all costs are taken into account.

The Harper government has already moved to protect consumers at the gas pumps, with a 2011 law that sharply increased penalties for shortchanging drivers on litres pumped.

Friday’s proposals, which have a 30-day period for feedback, would return Ottawa to an oversight role abandoned at least two decades ago, when mandatory periodic inspections on measuring devices ended.

The notice says the move would reverse the decline in measurement accuracy since the early 1980s, requiring firms to have their weigh-scales and other devices verified by private-sector inspectors approved by Measurement Canada.

Industry Canada cites the case of a farmer delivering milk to a big dairy that weighs the product on a faulty scale.

“In these transactions, farmers are the vulnerable parties and, while compliance rates are high, the measurement errors are weighted heavily in favour of the dairies,” says the notice.

The new regulations would benefit businesses far more than consumers, the department says.

“Results show that consumers do not benefit greatly from the improvements, since so many transactions occur between businesses. Consumers receive four per cent of net benefits and bear no costs.”

The proposals follow consultations with more than 3,000 stakeholders over a decade by Measurement Canada, an agency run by Industry Canada.

“It is anticipated that the number of examinations taking place in the marketplace will increase from the current 42,000 … per year to over 250,000 per year,” says the proposal.

“This increases the likelihood that measurement errors will be detected and corrected in a timely manner.”