What Does Legal for Trade Mean?

Legal for trade: Weighing up the requirements

In all commercial applications where product is sold by weight, it is a legal requirement that weighing equipment must be verified as ‘legal for trade’ or ‘trade approved’. In summary, this means that the equipment (from an individual scale to a complete pre-pack line) has undergone a stringent set of tests to ensure it is sufficiently accurate and fit for purpose.

If a trade approved unit undergoes any alteration or repair, it will require re-verification. This is to ensure that the approval remains valid.

The following list provides examples of typical applications where a legal-for-trade scale might be required:

Antique scale.

Who governs this law?


Weights and measures authorities around the world are responsible for controlling legal for trade equipment and related legislation. Most countries globally (outside of the USA) have adopted International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) requirements for weighing equipment. OIML has also developed a set of international guidelines relating to the manufacture and use of weighing and measuring instruments for legal metrology applications.

US specific:

In the US, requirements for legal for trade weighing equipment are laid out in Handbook 44 (Specific Tolerances and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices).

Equipment is certified under the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP). This is then developed through cooperation between the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) and the Weights and Measure division of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). NTEP is a process for the testing and evaluation of weighing equipment and critical components. It also ensures their compliance with Handbook 44.

According to NTEP, the term ‘used for trade’ also refers to devices that are used for selling, purchasing, exchanging, custody transfer, or establishing the cost for services or hire on the basis of a measurement.

By NTEPs terms, a ‘device’ is a weighing or measuring instrument. The term also refers to major elements

Canada Specific

In Canada, approval for trade is governed by standards and testing by Industry Canada under Measurement Canada’s approval process. Measurement Canada approval is required even if the product is NTEP certified.

Please click here to see more about recent changes to Measurement Canada’s Weights and Measures Regulations

European Community (EC) specific:

Countries within the EC are generally required to adopt the harmonised European Directives for CE compliance. This then includes those relating to “prescribed weighing instruments.”

In the EC weighing instruments are split into two categories; Automatic Weighing Instruments (AWI) and Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments (NAWI). The main difference between the two being that a NAWI requires the intervention of an operator during the weighing process to adjust the quantity of material being weighed. NAWIs are certified under the EC Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments Directive, while most AWIs fall within the remit of the EC Measuring Instruments (MID) directive

UK specific:

In the UK , Automatic checkweighers are not prescribed and do not have to be verified before they can be used for average weight, the owner of the instrument must always be able to show however that they are suitable for their use. The law relating to the average weight of packages is the responsibility of the local weights and measures department working under NMO guidelines. The rationale for regulating equipment is that the accuracy of quantity for a large number of individual transactions can also be guaranteed by ensuring the accuracy of the equipment making the measure. This is then normally applicable to pre-pack lines.

This certification can only be given by a weights and measures inspector or an ‘approved qualifier’. Additionally, an appropriate approved body must evaluate the design and operation of the equipment to ensure that it conforms to the published guidelines/ requirements.  It is also an offence to have, or use, seriously incorrect equipment or to alter equipment that is incorrect after it has been stamped.

International Organization of Legal Metrology (Global)


National Conference for Weights and Measures: NTEP (USA)


Measurement Canada


National Measurement Office – Weights and Measures legislation (UK)


UK Weighing Federation


*Disclaimer: This document is intended to provide a basic introduction, it is by no means an exhaustive explanation of the regulations and should not be used as such. Those needing to fully understand the how the law impacts upon their business should refer to the links outlined in the ‘useful links’ section of this page, or speak to one of our sales representatives