It comes after the council was made aware of a ministerial undertaking that different marks should be used to distinguish between onshore and offshore hallmarking.
The British Hallmarking Council’s legal adviser and former secretary Geraldine Swanton told ATG: “All public consultations are held in ‘suspended animation’ pending the general election, but the consultation will definitely go ahead. The council will then consider the responses to the consultation.”
Campaigners believe that the practice of using the UK’s traditional hallmarks in places like India threatens the country’s oldest form of consumer protection.
They also believe there is a risk that the EU may force all UK hallmarked products to require an additional ‘passport’ documentation in order to prove the country of assay.
Birmingham silversmith and spokesperson for The British Hallmarking Protection Alliance, Steve Millington, said: “Allowing a company registered in India to operate an assay service to strike hallmarks identical to those applied in Britain – that can be exported around the world described as ‘having UK hallmarks’ – will I believe weaken the value of our world famous symbols that have been struck only in Britain for centuries.”
When contacted by ATG, Birmingham Assay Office defended its opening of a division in Mumbai. “We have acted strictly in accordance with the law and the requirements of the BHC,” said Nyasha Pitt, commercial director at BAO. “We operate the Mumbai sub-office with the same rules, regulations, processes, external accreditation and controls as we do in the UK.”
She also pointed out that there was huge demand from retailers and manufacturers to have items stamped before being shipped and that the UK assay offices needed to be allowed to compete in a global market. “We are not the first to establish offshore offices,” she added.
Birmingham Assay Office is also supporting a ‘Made In Britain’ mark which UK manufacturers could choose to have added to their hallmark.