Effective and well focused regulation plays a vital role in correcting market failures, promoting fairness and increasing competition. The work we undertake at NMO is designed to develop an effective weights and measures and hallmarking regulatory regime providing appropriate information to, and protection for, consumers and business, whilst at the same time minimising the costs of compliance for business. Similarly, this applies to our work in enforcing environmental legislation under the restriction of use of hazardous substances regulations, protecting consumers and the environment in line with better regulation approaches.
In essence the principles of better regulation are that any regulation should be:
- targeted - only at cases where action is needed.
NMO is committed to seeking a proper balance between effective protections and appropriate levels of compliance costs. On the one hand it is entirely right that we have controls in place to protect consumers (including businesses as consumers) when they are making purchases. Each year in the UK, £342 billion worth of goods are sold on the basis of the measurement of their quantity (£212 billion of this is controlled by weights & measures legislation, and £130 billion by gas & electricity legislation), equating to £6.23 billion a week. In addition to this, goods worth around £280 billion per annum are weighed/measured at the industrial/business-to-business level. It is vital that consumers have access to sufficient information for them to make informed choices and comparisons. Moreover, for most purchases e.g. petrol it is virtually impossible for the consumer to check the quantity they are paying for so it is important for there to be controls in place to protect them. On the other hand, businesses expect a regime to be in place that they can understand easily and without undue cost. They also demand an enforcement regime that is consistent and proportionate and does not give rise to undue compliance costs.
NMO has adopted a rigorous approach to regulation; our recent reform project demonstrated our appetite for seeking feedback from users of our regulations with a view to testing our regulation against better regulation principles. This work is ongoing.
In addition, NMO implements the requirements of the statutory code of practice for regulators (the regulators' compliance code). The aim of this code is to embed a risk-based, proportionate and targeted approach to regulatory inspection and enforcement among the regulators it applies to.
At NMO we also undertake enforcement activities on RoHS. This enables us to have an excellent insight into the challenges faced by those who are at the frontline of regulation, both the enforcers and the businesses being regulated. Our approach here has been to target producers and others who present the highest risk if they fail to comply, ie those whose failure to comply would have the greatest impact. In this way we ensure that our enforcement activity is effectively targeted (which keeps costs to government down) and also focuses on maximising the impact. By adopting this approach it helps us deliver better regulation. We can also learn from this when we are developing future regulation - a virtuous circle of learning and continuous improvement.
1 Analysis of the economics of weights and measures legislation, Deloitte June 2009.