9 Regulating the market

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The regulation of markets is a subject bound up with the culture within which the market will operate. A balance will always need to be struck, between the needs of traders to operate in as free an environment as possible and the need to provide consumer protection and impose public health and safety rules.


Licensing can operate at a the level of the whole market or of the individual operating within it.

Market operators' licenses. When a market is privately owned or is publicly owned and let out to a private operator it is normal to require a license to operate. The administration of such a licensing system will vary from country to country. Normally it will be responsibility of a trade or home affairs ministry. Sometimes licenses are the direct responsibility of the courts and require an application to he made to a judge or magistrate.

The basis for the license will be a written agreement with the relevant authority or the market management board to comply with the types of regulations outlined below. To ensure compliance with public-health standards and fair-trading practices it is often necessary for governments to appoint inspectors who make frequent visits to markets and who have the power to revoke licenses.

Traders' licenses. All wholesalers and commission agents who wish to trade at the market should also be licensed and required to submit an application to the board for their consideration. Accepted applicants would be licensed to trade and be required to sign a trading agreement with the board.

Market regulations

The normal practice in all markets is to establish a set of regulations covering market hours and practices. These will vary substantially between different countries, but will follow some general principles. These are outlined below.

Trading bours Some markets allow trading hours to be fixed by the traders themselves. However, although some markets function over 24 hours, it is normal to regulate this so that the market can be completely cleaned for security purposes and, where an auction system is operated, to allow the books to be closed for the day. Therefore, market opening times for receipt of produce, the time that auctions, if appropriate, will commence each day and the time at which the market will be closed, should all be clearly specified. These hours should not follow those worked by government employees and should reflect the real needs of the market users. They may, however, vary during the week (reflecting religious customs) and by season, if this might have a significant impact on working temperatures or the amount of daylight hours available.

The commencement of each day's operation and termination is normally signalled by a buzzer or by the ringing of a hand bell. At the close of each day's sales, all buyers should be required to leave the market within a specified period, typically within one hour.

Liability and general regulations The regulations should stipulate that all goods taken into the market would be at the sole risk of the owner and that the market authority would not be liable for any loss or damage, other than if it failed to make "reasonable" provision for security. The rights of users of the market to have any claim against the market authority on matters of public-liability would also need to be limited. Some form of public-liability insurance may be available to cover both those that work within the market and visitors.

The regulations should require that all scales and measures used in the market should be regularly checked for accuracy by an independent authority. No commercial publicity or handbills should be allowed to be displayed throughout the market without the express consent of the market authority. The users of the market would be required to keep it in a clean condition, up to a minimum specified standard. Other general issues that might be covered by regulations include traffic and parking regulations and limitations on access to the market without a personal or vehicle pass.

A notice board, listing the general regulations of the market, should be displayed at a prominent position near the site entrance and within all the main buildings.

Regulation of tenants and traders. Under the provisions of their tenancy agreements all wholesalers, commission agents and buyers, (usually referred to by the general term of "traders") would have to undertake to respect and obey the market regulations, a copy of which would be incorporated in the tenancy agreement.

Any violation of the market regulations should result in the cancellation of the tenancy agreement and possible prosecution. For the first offence a verbal warning is often given; for a second, a written warning is issued; and for a third offence the trader should be suspended from trading for a period defined by the market authority, ranging usually from one day to one month. In specific cases legal action should be taken against the trader involved.

The wholesaler would also be required to maintain accurate financial records (available for inspection by the market authority on request) and pay commission due for purchases on the same day as the purchase was made, as well as to pay all other charges on the day they were charged.

Regulation of farmers. The regulations would also cover the activities of other traders and farmers selling goods at the market. They should be required not to sell or expose for sale any unauthorized produce. This would normally be imposed to stop the sale of high value non-agricultural items, typically clothes, but will probably also cover the sales of wine, liquor or spirits.

Producers and other users of the market, including retailers, should also be required not to create or cause to be created any riot or disturbance or to remove, damage or spoil any part of the market premises.

Inspection, quality control and hygiene

Any market must maintain a high standard of public hygiene. It will need to comply with national public health regulations, perhaps the best known of which is the Food and Drug Act in the United States.

The scope of such legislation may be wide ranging and include general matters relating to cleaning and disposal of waste materials, through to detailed technical requirements for the testing of produce for contamination. These regulations may be enforced by special officials or ones from the government's health ministry, often using public health officers attached to the municipal administration or a local hospital.

Cleaning fire prevention and quality control Specific local ordinances imposing standards for the cleanliness of markets may also exist. These may be administered by either the public works authority's sanitary inspectors or by public-health officers. The market will also come under the control of local authority public works officials and the fire brigade in relation to means of escape from the market in the case of a fire breakingout and in the maintenance of fire-control facilities, such as extinguishers and hose reels. These factors should be incorporated into the design of the market buildings (see Chapter 14).

It will usually be necessary for the market to employ its own staff of inspectors to maintain the quality of the produce and to ensure that public ordinances are adhered to, particularly any relating to grading standards and to weights and measures. For larger markets, particularly those trading in meat and fish, it will be essential to have a fully equipped and staffed laboratory. To prevent cross-infection, produce that shows any sign of decomposition should be disposed of by the market authority in collaboration with the public health officers. The trader concerned should normally have the right to remove the inferior goods from the market should he so wish.

Solid waste disposal A major problem in all markets is the disposal of solid waste and although provision may be made for depositing waste at specific points or into skips, it will also be necessary to check that market users are not placing dirt, filth, rubbish or any other substance on the market floor, but are using the containers provided.

A system of small fines may be necessary to achieve this. Although administration of solid waste disposal is the responsibility of the market authority, the actual operation of the system may be the function of the municipal authority or a private contractor. Further details on solid waste disposal are given in Chapters 13 and 14.

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