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Trader hooks heavy fine

FAILING to keep shop scales accurate or operate them properly will prove costly for businesses.

Victoria Park fishmonger Burswood Seafoods has been fined $1,000 for giving customers short-weight on packaged crayfish tails and jumbo king prawns.

The company, which pleaded guilty to 15 charges under the Weights and Measures Act, was also ordered to pay costs of $263.20.

Fair Trading commissioner Pat Walker said the charges resulted from an inspection of packaged seafood at the firm’s premises in June by Ministry of Fair Trading inspectors.

It is understood the check had been sparked by customer com-plaints.

“Calculated on the packages checked during that single inspection, consumers were coll-ectively being charged nearly $8 more than they should have been,” Mr Walker said.

“Individually the over-charging may be considered by some to be minor but the cumulative loss to consumers over a period of time can be significant.

“The bigger issue is that consumers don’t expect to be short-changed when they buy goods by weight or volume.”

Burswood Seafoods’ trans-gression was the result of poor weighing practices rather than faulty scales.

Staff were not allowing for the weight of packaging when pre-paring packaged goods.

Other traps for retailers include faulty scales and goods losing weight from dehydration after they have been packaged.

The Ministry of Fair Trading recommends retailers have their scales checked every six months by licensed contractors. Most scales manufacturers also sell test masses so shopkeepers can spot-check their scales.

Accurate scales are more of an issue for retailers that rely on their own weighing systems such as butchers, fish mongers and green grocers.

Customers are also more likely to complain when the goods they are buying by weight are expensive.

Small Business Development Corporation managing director George Etrelezis said it was important for shopkeepers to keep their scales accurate and make sure staff were trained to use them properly.

“The impact on goodwill from a shopkeeper being caught for weighing goods inaccurately can be very high,” Mr Etrelezis said.

“Customers don’t like to be snowed.

“The more up front you are with your customers about things such as faulty scales, it is surprising the positive effect it can have. It can actually help build a rapport with the customers.”

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