Department of Weights & Measures

Historical Background

The Weights and Measures Service (also known as Legal Metrology Service) in Kenya was started in 1912 with the enactment of the first Weights and Measures Act. The service was then under the Commissioner of Police but due to lack of technically qualified personnel in the Police Force, it was mainly concerned with inspection of weighing and measuring equipment used in trading activities to ensure that the equipment was stamped. Other technical aspects of the service such as maintenance of standards and verification of weighing and measuring equipment were not therefore effectively done at the time.

In 1928, the need for technical officers in the service led to the creation of a separate unit in the Police Force headed by a qualified Inspector of Weights and Measures from Britain who was then designated as Deputy Inspector within the Force.

As the use of more sophisticated and varied types of weighing and measuring equipment gradually increased, the need to have the persons charged with the responsibility of administering weights and measures given professional training in the measurement field and other related matters became eminent. In 1951 therefore, the Unit was divorced from the Police to become a fully-fledged Department of Weights and Measures under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Our first Provincial Office was opened in 1953 in Nakuru followed by Kisumu in 1954 and Mombasa in 1956.

The Department has since grown both in structure and scope and today encompasses two Acts of parliament, namely the Weights and Measures Act, Cap.513, Laws of Kenya and the Trade Descriptions Act, Cap.505, Laws of Kenya. These two Acts are not only the basis of the department’s mandate of ensuring honesty and fairness in business transactions, but are also vital instruments for the scientific, technical and industrial development of our country.

Currently, the Department’s services are available throughout the country through twenty-one(21) Zonal Offices at Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, Wundanyi, Nyeri, Thika, Meru, Embu, Machakos, Mwingi, Nakuru, Garissa, Eldoret, Kitale, Kericho, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Kisii, HomaBay and Kisumu.

The need for Weights and Measures (Legal Metrology)

  • As mentioned earlier, the law relating to weights and measures, known internationally by the name “Legal metrology”, is not only a vital instrument of consumer protection but is also vital for the scientific, technical and industrial development of a country.
  • The law has application in almost all spheres of human activity ranging from ordinary trade transactions to evaluations of value of products which are subject to duty or other taxes and even those measurements needed for ensuring public health and human safety.
  • In ordinary trade transactions, the law ensures that during the sale of any commodity, the quantity delivered to the purchaser is not less than the quantity contracted for and paid for. This does not only save the trader large losses, but by protecting the consumer from cheating, it enhances the consumers’ purchasing power thereby enabling him to purchase more.
  • Legal control on measurements involving public health and human safety is equally important from the viewpoint of consumer protection. For example, a clinical thermometer or a blood pressure instrument which is not properly tested may lead to wrong diagnosis and incorrect medication while measurement of axle load on trucks to control overloaded vehicles minimizes damage to roads with the consequent reduction of road fatalities and expenditure on development and maintenance of public roads.
  • In the case of pre-packaged commodities, the primary need is that the packages intended for retail sale should be marked with the correct statement of quantity together with such other information as would help the consumer make an informed choice of the product or commodity he/she intends to buy.

Mission

The Mission of the Weights and Measures Department is to facilitate fair trade by ensuring use of accurate weighing and measuring equipment, promoting fair business practices and protecting the consumer against exploitation in the sale of goods and services.

The mission is derived from the two Acts of Parliament enforced by the Department, namely, the Weights and Measures Act, Cap. 513, Laws of Kenya and the Trade Descriptions Act, Cap.505 Laws of Kenya, and the core functions of the Department are geared towards the fulfillment of this mission.

Core Functions

The core functions of the Department are four fold, namely:-

 Establishment of a uniform system, of measurement in trade,
 Control of weighing and measuring equipment in use for trade,
 Control of the sale of goods, and
 Protecting the consumer against cheating through the use of falsehood in the sale of goods and in the provision of services in the course of trade.

Establishment of a uniform system of Measurement

Uniformity of the units of measurement is achieved through:-

  • Ensuring that only the authorised system of units, i.e. The International System of Units (SI) is used in trade in Kenya.
  • Maintenance of standards of weight and measure (i.e. the physical representation of the units of measurement) which are traceable to the International Standards and against which the accuracy of all other standards of measurement used in trade in Kenya re tested.

Control on Weighing and Measuring Equipment

Metrological Control of Weighing and Measuring Equipment. This includes:-

  • approval of Patterns/Types of equipment,
  • initial verification,
  • periodic verification(or reverification),
  • verification after repairs, and
  • inspection of the use of the equipment

In Pattern/Type approval, one equipment of the same pattern is subjected to vigorous tests with the object of ensuring that the instrument will be able to maintain its accuracy and other metrological qualities and characteristics such as sensitivity, repeatability, durability, etc. for a prolonged period, and under varied conditions, of use. It also ensures that such equipment conform to the general specifications laid down in the Weights and Measures Act and that it is not of a type which could be easily manipulated or altered to permit fraudulent use.

Initial verification means the verification of a new weighing or measuring equipment before it is sold or brought into trade use. Under the law, every such equipment is required to be duly verified and stamped before being released for sale.

Verification ensures that the equipment is weighing or measuring to within the accuracy limits laid down in the law.

Subsequently verification of the equipment after the initial verification is known as “periodic verification” or “reverification” and is carried out at prescribed intervals of one year.

A weighing or measuring equipment is required to be reverified every time it has been repaired even if the period of validity of the periodic verification has not expired.

Inspection is a policing operation to check on the compliance with any of the requirements of the law. It is an important element of metrological control from the viewpoint of consumer protection and is done without notice. It is meant to ensure that the equipment:-

  • has been tested and stamped as required under the law,
  • still retains the accuracy it had when last stamped, and
  • is being used properly, i.e. it is not being used in such a manner as to defraud customers.

Inspections are also sometimes carried out as a result of complaints from the public.

Control on Manufacture, Repair and Sale of Weighing and Measuring Equipment

Manufacture, repair and sale of weights, measures, weighing and measuring equipment falling within the purview of legal metrology are carried out only by the authorised persons who are required to abide by the law.

Repairers must be licenced before engaging in the business of repairing weighing or measuring equipment while all manufacturers of weighing and measuring equipment must be registered under the Weights and Measures Act.

A manufacturer or repairer must submit all instruments which he has manufactured or repaired, as the case may be, to an inspector for verification and stamping before such instrument is sold or returned to trade use, as the case may be.

Control of the Sale of goods
Legal Control on Pre-packed Goods

In today’s business, weighing and measuring in the presence of the purchaser is steadily giving way to pre-packed goods because of the ease and convenience with which the latter can be transported and marketed.

The role of legal metrology in connection with pre-packed goods is therefore very important from the point of view of consumer protection. Some of the unfair practices in the case of pre-packed goods are:-

  • insufficient information on the label about the contents of the package;
  • deceptive packaging;
  • misleading slogans to describe package size;
  • proliferation and irrationality in pack sizes making unit price comparison difficult and creating unfair competition in trade; and
  • tendency to control price increase or maintain a customary price by making a small reduction in the package contents.

The law requires every package to carry thereon, or on a label securely affixed thereto, the following information:-

  • the name and address of the manufacturer, or packer of the goods;
  • the common or generic name of the goods contained in the package;
  • the number or net weight or measure of the goods in the package;
  • in some cases, the date marking showing the last day, month and year by which the goods may be sold.

This information should be conspicuous, legible and prominent so as to be readily seen and understood by a prospective purchaser. The law also requires this information to be on that part of the package or label which is likely to be seen by the customer under normal conditions of display of the package.

One other important provision made in the law is the standardization of the package sizes to help the consumer make price comparisons without difficulty. The standardization is also in the interest of industry as it is one of the factors preventing unfair competition in trade. In the absence of the standardization, there would be a possibility of using “odd size” packages as a means of price-cutting in order to take an unfair commercial advantage.

With a view to ensuring accuracy in the net quantity of packages, the law provides for test checking at the premises of the manufacturer or packer. A detailed procedure for this purpose is prescribed in the law and is designed in such a way that while the legitimate interest of the manufacturers and the packers are protected, the interests of the consumer are also safeguarded.

The manufacturer or packer is required to control the filling of quantities in such a way that the average net content is not less than what is marked on the package.
The law also contains suitable provisions to stop production and sale of deceptive packages.

A deceptive package is a package which is so designed as to deliberately give to the consumer an exaggerated or misleading impression as to the quantity of the goods contained therein, except where bigger dimensions of the package can be justified on the grounds that such dimensions are necessary for giving protection to the goods in the package or for meeting the requirements of the machine used for filling the package.

Unfilled space in cardboard packages containing commodities such as powder soap, detergents or processed food, and the use of jars and other containers with increasingly thick walls in packing cosmetic creams are examples of deceptive packaging.

Protecting the Consumer against cheating through use of Falsehood in the Sale of Goods and Provision of Services

It is an offence under our law for any person carrying on business to make a false, misleading or reckless statement with regard to the sale of goods or provision of services/facilities/ accommodation by him. The statement whether by way of word of mouth, by a notice, label, invoice or advertisement, need not be deliberate. The mere making of an untrue statement, irrespective of intention, is an offence.

The untrue statement can be about the price of goods, viz:-

  • An indication that the price at which goods are offered is equal to or less than a recommended price (e.g. “Recommended Price – 200/=, Our Price – 149/=); or
  • An indication that the price at which goods are offered is less than the price at which the goods, or goods of the same description, are actually being offered or were previously offered by him, (e.g. “20% OFF” or “Prices slashed – Now only X shillings”,etc. ) or

The untrue statement could be about a wide range of matters relating to the goods. It could be about –

  • Identity, quantity, size or gauge (“Bedsheets – 200cm x 340cm” while the sheets are not of that size)
  • How made or processed (e.g. “Handmade” while the item is mass-produced)
  • what they are made of (e.g. “Genuine leather bags” which are made of simulated leather produced from plastic)
  • fitness for purpose (e.g. “will not shrink”)
  • strength or other physical properties (e.g. “unbreakable” or “rust-proof”)
  • testing or approval by any person (e.g. “made to KEBS specifications”)
  • place or date of manufacture or person by whom manufactured (e.g. “Made in England” or “18th Century antique” or “imported from Italy etc.)
  • previous ownership (e.g. “formerly the property of Z”) etc.

With regard to services, facilities or accommodation a person commits an offence if he makes an untrue statement about:-

  • the nature of any service, accommodation or facility, (e.g. charging for parts on repair or service which have not been fitted)
  • the time at which, manner in which, or persons by whom, any services, accommodation or facilities are provided (eg. “same day delivery” when it takes a week to deliver or “dry-cleaning in 24 hours” when it is impossible to do it in that time.
  • Location of amenities of any accommodation (e.g. “ideal rooms for conference” or “air-conditioned rooms” when the same is not true

Role of Weights & Measures in the Socio-economic development of Kenya

A close scrutiny of the core functions of the Department as outlined in the preceding paragraphs reveals that Weights and Measures functions contribute to-

  • fair international trade of our products and services
  • fair evaluation of the value of products that are subject to duty and other taxes
  • fair retail trade where consumer protection is of prime importance and where conflicting interest may exist between sellers and buyers thereby necessitating the intervention of an impartial referee
  • the credibility of measurements in human and animal health and environment.
  • By contributing to fair international trade of our products, the Weights and Measures function also contribute to the country’s economic development. This is more so for a developing country like Kenya whose economy is mainly based on the production of a limited number of agricultural products and which has to import many manufactured goods by weight or measure.
  • By contributing to a fair evaluation of the value of products that are subject to taxes, the Weights and Measures functions also contribute to a correct evaluation of national incomes.
  • By contributing to fair retail trade of our products, the Weights and Measures functions also contribute to consumer confidence and to the enhancement of the consumers’ purchasing power thereby enhancing his ability to purchase more. This in turn accelerates economic development of the country.
  • By contributing to the credibility of measurements in human and animal health as well as other actions connected with the maintenance of appropriate levels of safety, the Weights and Measures functions also contribute to the welfare of Kenyans.

The Role of Weights and Measures in support of Regional (EAC, COMESA AND NEPAD) Development Goals

There are many areas within the action plans of the East African Community(EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in which Weights and Measures functions need to play a vital role.

These are Energy, Transport, Water and Sanitation, Health, Agriculture, Environment and Manufacturing

Energy
Weights and Measures needs to get involved in the sale of energy domestically as well as within Africa, e.g. the importation of electric energy from Uganda and the proposed tapping of hydro-electric energy from the Southern African countries.

Transport
Weights and Measures involvement in the area of transport would be to ensure that legislation is in place to control the overloading of vehicles. The regulations would require weighbridges used for weighing road vehicles to be approved and verified at regular intervals thereby ensuring that the national road network is not damaged due to overloading of vehicles. Breath alcohol and vehicle speed measurement instruments would also be covered in the regulations.

The regulations would give confidence in the measurements made resulting in reduced disputes.

Water and Sanitation
Weights and Measures involvement in this area concerns the instruments used in the sale of water both domestic and industrial.

Health
In this area Weights and Measures involvement is in the creation of technical regulations and the approval and verification of medical instruments.

Agriculture
Technical regulations should be in place to give confidence in the measurement of agricultural products assuring farmers of a fair deal and creating a sound basis for government to collect duties. Instruments for quality related measurements such as grain moisture meters are included.

Environment
Weights and Measures in this area involves creation of technical regulations for instruments used to measure the pollution generated by industries. Weights and Measures needs to be involved in the measurement of industrial emissions especially if rebates are to be considered as reward for countries who reduce emissions or if sanctions are imposed.

Manufacturing
This is probably the most important area. The aim of EAC, COMESA and NEPAD is to encourage cross-border trade and improve competitiveness. Technical regulations need to be in place to ensure that commodities are correctly packed and that measurements are accurate and traceable to international standards.
By putting in place regulation framework which meets international best practice and ensuring a uniform implementation which will in turn ensure an effective trade measurement system, Weights and Measures organization in the relevant countries will have assisted greatly in creating a solid basis from which the regional organizations can grow.

Important Information and useful hints to the trader

In Relation to Weighing and Measuring Equipment:-

  • The International System of Units (SI) is the only legal system of Weights and Measures in Kenya.
  • All weighing and measuring instruments are required by law to be tested for accuracy and stamped by the Inspectors of Weights and Measures before they are sold or brought into trade use and thereafter once every year.
  • Ensure that every piece of equipment in your possession bears a valid stamp of verification before buying it and that it is duly tested in time thereafter.
  • Check from time to time that the stamp has not been accidentally defaced perhaps by being knocked during cleaning of the equipment, etc.
  • If an Inspector tests your equipment and reports to you that it is inaccurate and that he has obliterated the stamp, take that equipment out of use at once and ensure that no member of your staff puts it back into your trading premises before it is repaired and re-stamped.
  • If accuracy of your equipment is suspect for any reason, take it from the premises or call an Inspector to check it for you. A slight inaccuracy in a weighing machine may result in serious losses in your business. Such losses eat up profits of an otherwise flourishing business and may be the difference between success and failure.
  • Remember that short delivery is punishable under the Weights and Measures Act and that fraudulent use of weights and measures attracts stringent penalty under the Act.

In Relation to Sale of Goods

  • When you want to start pre-packing goods, ask for advise from your nearest Weights and Measures Office as to the requirements for the commodities to be sold, i.e. whether they must be packed in prescribed quantities and how they must be labeled , e.t.c.
  • Select weighing or measuring equipment, which is suitable for the job. The equipment should have a maximum capacity as near as possible to the actual quantity to be packed and should be of a suitable type capable of packing to the required standard of accuracy.
  • Instruct your staff adequately on how to operate the equipment to ensure that no under weight or under measure is packed and that overweight or measure does not occur above an amount which is acceptable to you and which removes the risk of any shortages caused by loss of weight or measure during storage.
  • Ensure that all goods sold from bulk and which are weighed or measured at the time of sale are marked with the price per unit quantity by means of a notice or display ticket.
  • Ensure also that the customers’ side of the weighing machine is clear and unobstructed. In the even of accidental sale of short weight, the obstruction of the customer’s side of the weighing machine can give rise to suspicion that it was deliberate.
  • Ensure that packaged goods sold by you bear on the body of the package, or on a label securely affixed thereto, the following information
    • Name of the goods
    • Name and address of the manufacturer or packer of the goods and in the case of imported packaged goods, the name and address of the importer of the goods.
    • The quantity of the goods in the package in terms of net weight, measure or number.
    • In the case of some particular goods listed in the Schedule to the Weights and Measures (Sale and Labelling of Goods) Rules, the last day, month and year by which such goods may be sold.

In relation to Misdescription of Goods and Services

  • The cardinal rule in order to avoid trouble with false trade description is to say nothing about the goods unless the accuracy of the statement is known.
  • Make sure that all goods sold in your shop are properly described and then give precise instructions to your staff, preferably in writing, as to exactly what they can say when dealing with customers to avoid the possibility of implied false trade descriptions.
  • Remember that is an offence simply to supply something to which someone else has applied a false trade description. “People in business are expected to know their business” and you are therefore expected to be able to spot false descriptions, which would be within the knowledge of a reasonably competent businessman in his trade. The law holds you responsible for any false statements on the goods in your shop even though the false statements may have been made by the manufacturer.
  • The only safe rule for you as the trader is to ensure that the goods are checked before being sold. If a consignment of goods arrive in your shop and there is anything on the label, invoice, advertising material or the product itself, which appears doubtful, contact the supplier at once and ask for an assurance in writing that the goods do comply with all descriptions applied to them.
  • The written assurance from the manufacturer or supplier is a defence for your self in the event of trouble at a later date.
  • To safeguard yourself from the offence of giving a false indication about price, simply tell the strict truth and take great care to ensure that all claims of reduced price are actually correct.
  • Remember that to claim a reduction from a price previously charged, your original price must have been in operation for a continuous period of not less than 28 days in the preceding six months.
  • To avoid making a false or reckless statement about the provision of services, the golden rule is to be truthful about all services provided.
  • Ensure that in case of a repair, any new parts fitted and charged for should be itemized on account and the old parts should be available for inspection by the customer.
  • Avoid making exaggerated claims about the effectiveness or longevity of a repair. Such statements as “as good as new” can lead your into trouble.

Useful hints to the consumer

  • Weights and Measures laws ensure consumer protection and fair trade practices. Get to know the Inspector of Weights and Measures in your area.
  • All weights, measures, weighing and measuring instruments in use by a trader are required by law to be tested for accuracy and stamped by the Inspector of Weights and Measures once every year.
  • Look for the stamp of verification on the weighing or measuring equipment as this is your only guarantee that the equipment has been tested and found accurate. The stamp of verification is of the following design:-
  • stamp verification
  •  It is accompanied by a date mark indicating the year of stamping and in some cases by a letter of the alphabet indicating the month (i.e. ‘A’ for January, ‘B’ for February, etc).
  •  If any instrument is tested by an Inspector and found to be inaccurate, its stamp is obliterated by a mark of the following design: -
  • star
  •  Such an instrument is regarded as “rejected” and should not be used for trade. Look out for it.
  •  Insist on delivery of the correct quantity in your purchase. Learn to read the scale indications and observe the weighing of your purchase.
  •  Buy your requirements in round units of weight like 1 kilogram, 500 grams, etc. to make your calculation of total price easier.

Current Status of the Department

There are 47 county officers, one in each county out of these 47 officers 21 have existed before devolution took effect. 26 are newly established in line with the constitution that provides that fair trade function should be devolved.
Functions of the Department at the National Government

  • Pattern approval
  • Maintenance of national standards at the Weights and Measures laboratory
  • Formulation and revision of policy that provide legal and technical guide to legal metrology officers in line with international practice
  • Training of legal metrology officers at the training unit within the departments headquarters
  • Examining the licensing of technicians that handle weighing and measuring equipment
  • Provide stakeholder awareness through the media
  • Linkage with regional and international organization dealing with legal metrology

Functions of the county weights and measure offices

  • Carryout verification of weighing and measuring equipment
  • Conduct inspection to enforce the requirement of weights and measures Act Cap 513 and the Trade Descriptions Act Cap 505
  • Provide stakeholders awareness throughout the county
  • Supervise the registration of technician workshops and ensure that they wok according to regulations provided for under the weights and measures Act.

Technical staff position

There are 93 legal metrology officers throughout the country. They are supported by 37 legal metrology assistants.

These are the officers that man the headquarters and the 47 counties. The number is set to increase as counties recruit more staff as appropriate.

For further details kindly contact:-

The Director
Department of Weights & Measures
Weights & Measures Building, South C
Popo Road, Off Mombasa Road
P. O. Box 30430-00100
Nairobi, Kenya.

E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contacts

  • Social Security House, Block A, 17th, 23rd Floor
  • P.O. Box 30418-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Telephone: +254 20-2731531
  • Fax: +254 20-2731511
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
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