The information below contains a summary of the main requirements of weights and measures and fair trading legislation enforced by the Trading Standards Service, as applicable to the buying and selling by retail of precious metals.
This information is intended to be a brief summary to help businesses to understand what the law says and about the way businesses are required to buy and sell precious metals.
Weights and Measures Requirements
As a general rule, precious metals are required to be bought and sold by net weight. There is also a requirement when buying and selling precious metals to utilise stamped weighing and measuring equipment with a defined category of accuracy, a Class II Weighing Machine. See 'The Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments Regulations 2000. SI 2000 No. 3236.
Please also see our weighing equipment in use for trade webpage which gives guidance on the legislative controls which are applicable to the scales that can be used for trade purposes.
Trading Fairly with Consumers
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 require businesses not to trade unfairly with their customers.
The Regulations ban traders from using unfair commercial practices towards consumers and set out broad rules outlining when commercial practices are unfair. These fall into four main categories:
- A general ban on conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith). This is intended to act as a 'safety net' protection for all consumers.
- Misleading practices, like false or deceptive messages, or leaving out important information
- Aggressive sales techniques that use harassment, coercion or undue influence. For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. For example, when a shopper makes a purchasing decision he/she would not have made had he/she been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.
- In addition, the regulations ban 31 specific practices outright. Relevant examples here include:
- making a special offer when it is not available
- falsely saying that an offer is time limited when it is not
- making false claims for the products. A full list is available from your local Trading Standards Service.
These rules have been designed to protect consumers from unfair sales and marketing practices so that businesses have to act in a way that enables the average consumer to make free and informed purchasing decisions.
In addition, the rules stop aggressive selling techniques, misinforming and misleading people about products or services. Honest businesses do not have to change the way they operate and have the added benefit that effective measures are in place to deal with this type of unfair competition.
The United Kingdom is one of only a few countries in the world that have compulsory statutory hallmarking. This means that every item sold as a precious metal, i.e. gold, silver or platinum must have been tested and hallmarked by an independent third-party Assay Office to guarantee that the precious metal is of the fineness stated.
The law applied to everything sold in the UK, regardless of where it may have been manufactured. The only exemptions are items which fall beneath the specified weight thresholds which are 1 gram for gold, 7.78 grams for silver and 0.5 grams for platinum.
The current legislative position is set out in the Hallmarking Act 1973 which has since been amended by a number of other Regulations and Orders, including the Hallmarking (Hallmarking Act Amendment) Regulations 1998 which bring UK legislation in line with the rest of Europe.
The main changes made are:
- Standards to be expressed as parts per thousand (millesimal) on all metals, e.g. Sterling silver to be marked 925, 18ct gold to be marked 750 etc...
- Date letters are now optional
- Pictorial fineness standard marks i.e. lion for silver, crown for gold, orb for platinum, now optional
- Separate marks for imports abolished
- New standards established for all metals.
One of the requirements of the Hallmarking Act 1973 is that all dealers supplying precious metal jewellery shall display a notice explaining the approved hallmarks.
This must be the notice produced by the British Hallmarking Council. Dealer Notices are available from the Birmingham Assay Office at a cost of £10.00 each including VAT and prevailing postage costs.
Dealer's Notices and Internet sales
On the 25 April 2016, the British Hallmarking Council announced that although the Hallmarking Act 1973 makes no express reference to the internet, the Council's view is that the Act applies to sales of, and other dealings in, articles made of precious metal conducted over the internet. The "premises" in the Act are therefore the websites on which the articles are advertised and sold. The website should display the prescribed dealers' notice in a prominent position. To see the full advice note go to Guidance (pdf 320 kb)
For further specialist technical advice, please go to the Birmingham Assay Office website.
City of Newcastle upon Tyne Act 2000
The City of Newcastle upon Tyne Act 2000 requires all dealers in second hand goods in Newcastle to register with the local authority. This came into force on 1 September 2001. The Trading Standards Service at the Civic Centre, Newcastle, is administering the registration. Please read the information below to see of the Act applies to you. If you need to register, please fill in the registration form and return it to the address shown.
Who is Affected?
Any persons (including agents) who carry on the business of a dealer in second-hand goods trading within the City of Newcastle upon Tyne.
What does the Act require?
There are two main requirements, namely registration and record keeping.
Dealers must now register with the Trading Standards Service. Both the dealer and the business premises must be registered. Dealers who do not have fixed premises within Newcastle should just register their business. Registration is valid for 3 years and there is no fee payable. The certification of registration must be displayed on a part of the premises open to the public.
Please note that if any of the details on the registration form change then a new registration must be made, even if this is within 3 years.
The Act also requires businesses to keep detailed records of goods bought. These details must be entered in a book kept on the premises specifically for this purpose. In the case of businesses with no fixed premises (e.g. Market Traders) this book should be available whenever doing business.
This book must be retained for at least one year after the last entry was made and must be produced (if requested) to a Police Constable or Trading Standards Officer. Details which must be recorded include:
Date of transaction,
Description of article,
Name and address of person from whom the article was acquired.
Please remember: It is now illegal to buy second-hand goods from somebody under the age of 16 years. It is also an offence for a person selling second-hand goods to a registered business to give a false name or false address.
For further advice on the registration scheme go visit our second hand goods dealer registration webpage.
If you don't comply with these regulations, your company may well be investigate by your local authority's Trading Standards Service and other bodies. These lengthy investigations could take up a lot of your business time and you could also be prosecuted and fined. You could also lose customers.
Copies of the legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed at OPSI
Please note: This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help businesses dealing with precious metals to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.
For further information, please contact the Trading Standards Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH. Phone: 0191 2116121 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org