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Hallmarking as a legal requirement is once again under scrutiny and threat. The UK Government’s current drive to reduce regulation was launched on 7th April under the banner of The Red Tape challenge. http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

 

The Red Tape Challenge has started by examining the Retail Sector and asking the electorate for their views on topics as diverse as “Sunday Trading” and “Trading with the Enemy”.
You only have until 5th May 2011 to reply. PLEASE ACT NOW!

The Red Tape Challenge aims to reduce regulation which stifles enterprise and industry. The message from the Government appears to be that every regulation highlighted will be abolished – unless visitors to the website express sufficient good reasons to convince Ministers that this particular regulation must be kept.

Hallmarking is among the eight key topics on which the population is invited to air their views from now until 5th May 2011. There are other important topics there too, of huge significance to retailers and consumers.

We believe it is imperative to the British consumer for the current and future UK Jewellery Industry to maintain hallmarking as a statutory independent service.

We urge you to visit Red Tape http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/hallmarking and express your views now – before Hallmarking is deregulated and 700 years of even handed consumer protection is brought to an abrupt end, not because people don’t want it, but by default.

Consumers Protected

While in principle we agree that red-tape is a bad thing, we don’t believe that Hallmarking is a red-tape regulation. The Birmingham Assay Office believes that Hallmarking has never been more important to the British Jewellery Trade and to the consumers it was always intended to protect

All items sold as gold, silver, platinum or palladium in the UK must be hallmarked, unless they are very lightweight, regardless of where they are made.

Hallmarking has survived for over 700 years because it genuinely protects the UK public from being cheated. The precious metals market is an asymmetric market where the industry knows a lot and the consumer very little, making them vulnerable to deception. Asymmetric markets must be regulated.

With 85% of jewellery sold in the UK now being imported from countries with no properly regulated hallmarking regime, and where counterfeiting is rife, UK consumers need a strong Hallmarking regime to protect them from dishonest activity more than ever

In some countries it is widely accepted that gold jewellery may not contain quite as much fine gold as it purports to. With gold prices at a record high of £900 per ounce the dishonest trader stands to gain a huge amount by slightly reducing the gold content of an 18ct article - which should contain 75% fine gold. To adjust the gold content of a 10 gram ring to 70% by adding slightly more copper would increase the copper price by a few pence and decrease the proper retail value by around £60. Without a hallmarking system in place the consumer will never know their gold is under carat. But they will have been cheated.

In the last two years millions of people have cashed in on the high gold price by selling their scrap jewellery for cash. The hallmark means they know exactly how much fine gold they are selling and, again, provides protection from cheats.

Traders Protected

Without an independent Hallmark, even those jewellers who want to sell items in good faith cannot be sure exactly what they are buying or selling. Honest traders will be at a disadvantage.
Small companies in the UK Jewellery Industry are still thriving, producing high value beautifully made items. They already have to compete with lower labour costs elsewhere, but if they have to compete with articles which are under carated as well, the Jewellery Industry will have no future.

We believe it is imperative to the current and future UK Jewellery Industry and the British consumer to maintain hallmarking as a statutory independent service.

Please visit http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/hallmarking and express your views NOW .

Penny J. Parkes

The Assay Office, Birmingham

 

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