[L.A. County] – From turnips to taxicab rides, from ground beef to gasoline, every transaction is based upon a count, measurement, weight or volume. Weights and Measures officials inspect and verify the accuracy of commercial scales, meters, price scanners, and quantity labeling on packaged goods throughout the marketplace. Kurt E. Floren, Director of Weights and Measures for the County of Los Angeles and Chair of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, announced the theme for this year’s Weights and Measures Week, March 1 through 7, as “Taking Measure of Our Worth.”
Floren stated, “The investment in regulatory oversight varies among states, but, on average, is about 70 cents per resident per year. It is important that taxpayers and legislators who represent them realize that they, as consumers, can lose much more than that in a single trip to the store or gas station without the protections and assurances that weights and measures programs provide.” As an example, at $4.00 per gallon for gasoline, a one-percent inaccuracy in a 20-gallon purchase can result in an 80-cent overcharge in that single transaction.
Most consumers take for granted that they get what they pay for.
Weights and Measures Week provides a reminder that equity in the marketplace exists largely through the efforts of inspectors working behind the scenes. “We used to worry about abilities to keep up with new marketplace technologies, such as bar code scanners, wireless measuring devices, and interfaced computer systems,” said Floren.
“Now, many jurisdictions throughout the state and the nation worry for resources to simply perform basic tasks of placing test weights on a scale or checking the accuracy of gas pumps.”
Floren confidently acknowledges that the Los Angeles County Weights and Measures regulatory program is among the most active and effective in the nation, inspecting over 240,000 weighing and measuring devices used in commercial transactions, including petroleum fuel meters, utility submeters, vehicle odometers, taximeters, LPG meters, and all grocery, butcher, jewelry, postal, vehicle, luggage, and shipping scales.
Inspectors order removal of inaccurate devices from service until repaired and re-verified, while also performing routine and undercover purchases at over 10,000 grocery and retail stores and gasoline stations to compare prices charged to prices advertised or posted on store shelves and to ensure that scales and meters are used in accordance with laws and regulations. Inspectors also check packages for labeling and quantity accuracy.
“The Los Angeles County program benefits from strong recognition by the Board of Supervisors of the program’s importance to consumer protection and in support from the Board and business operators for device and scanner registration fees that offset costs of the regulatory activities.” Floren notes, though, that severe budget reductions to the State’s Division of Measurement Standards, to weights and measures programs in other California counties, and to those in other states pose significant risks to a reliable, comprehensive, nationwide program.
“Tremendous volumes of packaged goods enter the Los Angeles marketplace from other areas with very limited or non-existent inspection programs. Lack of compliance inspections at the source places local consumers at risk of being cheated and losing confidence that they get what they pay for.”
“We have long been the invisible third party in every transaction, but that invisibility produces a lack of awareness of the critical value of our services,” said Floren. “Businesses must demand a marketplace in which their competitors are accountable and legislators must recognize weights and measures oversight as essential services that benefit all through assurance of accuracy in packaged goods, product measurements, and transactions.”
Today, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich proclaiming March 1 through 7 as “Weights and Measures Week” in the County of Los Angeles.
National Weights and Measures Week is being observed by state and local jurisdictions throughout the United States. The 2012 National Weights and Measures Week marks the 213th anniversary of the nation’s first weights and measures law, passed by the Congress of the United States on March 2, 1799.
The National Conference on Weights and Measures is a professional nonprofit association of state and local weights and measures officials, federal agencies, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. NCWM has developed national weights and measures standards since 1905. The organization brings appropriate and varying interests together to keep pace with innovative advancements in the marketplace.
Established in 1881, the County of Los Angeles Department of Agricultural Commissioner/ Weights and Measures protects consumers and the environment through early detection and exclusion of dangerous, invasive insect and plant pests; enforcement of laws and regulations regarding safe pesticide use; operation of an environmental toxicology laboratory; clearance of weeds, brush, and debris from vacant land to reduce fire hazards; inspection and verification of accuracy of scales, meters, price scanners, and quantity labeling on packaged goods.