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Rules & Regulations for Digital Weigh Scales

Erin Pearlman Jan 1 Updated Jun 12
About digital and legal-for-trade scales

If you run a bakery, grocery store, deli, or other business that determines price based on weight, you likely use a digital weigh scale. While these scales are an industry standard for determining cost, certified "legal-for-trade" versions of these scales are required by law. Below, we'll delve deeper into the standards set forth by the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) and what you need to know to keep your business above board.

What is NCWM?

NCWM is a nonprofit organization created to prevent irregularities in scale readings and regulate commerce within the United States. It develops national weights and measures standards which are then published in handbooks by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

What are legal-for-trade scales?

"Legal-for-trade" is a designation scales receive once they've been certified and approved for commercial use.

The certification comes from the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP), a program administered by NCWM and listed in NIST Handbook 44. If a device is meets the requirements, the scale is granted the NTEP Certificate of Conformance (COC). This certification is designed to ensure fair competition among manufacturers and assure store owners that they're investing in proper equipment. Gaining NTEP certification is the first step manufacturers need to obtain to be classified as legal-for-trade.

The second part of the process relies on the approval of each state's weights and measures inspector. An inspector checks for suitability, proper installation, and accuracy of the NTEP-certified scale. Once approved, the scale can be used by the end user (you) for commercial purposes.

Obtaining the "legal-for-trade" designation is the responsibility of the scale manufacturers and distributors, not end users.

Does my business need a legal-for-trade scale?

If you are "selling, purchasing, exchanging, custody transfer, or establishing the cost for services or hire on the basis of a measurement," you are using the scale commercially and will need to invest in a legal-for-trade scale.

Even if you aren't using the scale for commercial reasons, you should consider having a scale with NTEP Certification. This certification guarantees that the weight shown is accurate and that you'll get consistent results.

What industries use scales?

The following is a list of industries that typically rely on legal-for-trade scales:

  • Bakeries
  • Grocery Stores / Supermarkets
  • Meat Markets / Butcheries
  • Produce Stands
  • Delicatessens
  • Fish Markets
  • Jewelry Stores

How can I tell if the scale I'm using is compliant?

If you're using a digital weigh scale for your business, we recommend checking its Certificate of Conformance. Entering information like the name of the manufacturer, model number, and device type into NCWM's database will help you find out.

Where can I get labels for my legal-for-trade scale?

When it comes to operating your scale, you want to make sure you're using high-quality label stock to print your merchandising labels. OnlineLabels.com offers smooth, bright white direct thermal labels with supermarket-grade adhesive.

Learn more about legal-for-trade scale labels.

Why are some labels pre-printed?

Because digital weigh scales use direct thermal technology to print the weight and pricing information on the labels, they're not capable of printing in color. Pre-printed label stock gives businesses a way to help their information stand out. They can call attention to a ‘thank you' message, indicate care and handling instructions, or simply highlight the price for ease of use. They are a completely optional decision.

Are the instructions and warnings on the labels necessary?

Much like the ‘thank you' messaging, this is up to your discretion. However, reminding customers of any warnings or instructions could be viewed as a good precautionary measure. This is primarily important for companies in the business of selling raw meat, poultry, and seafood. The pre-printed stock includes information on washing your surfaces, cooking the product thoroughly, etc.




At OnlineLabels.com, we want to help your business make informed decisions about your digital weigh scale. If your scale has a print functionality, you can count on us to provide high-quality labels at affordable prices.

Shop scale labels

This article is meant to be used as a guide, not as an authoritative resource on the latest weights and measures legislation. At the time of publication (April 2017), the information mentioned above is compliant with state and federal laws. Please be sure to check the applicable databases for updates or revisions as regulations can change frequently. We are not responsible or liable for any actions taken as a result of using the content or resources listed above.

Sources: 1800Scales.com, Avery Weigh-Tronix, Central Carolina Scale, and NCWM.

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