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The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 Explained

On 1 October 2013 the Scrap Metal Dealers Act (“the Act”) came into force in England and Wales. The Act creates a regulatory regime for the scrap metal and vehicle salvage industries and introduces a number of important changes which scrap dealers must be aware of. Our Business Crime Solicitors explain...

The Act aims to counteract the increasing problem of metal theft and illegal trading in the UK. Paul Crowther, the deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police and national lead on metal theft for ACPO (The Association of Chief Police Officers) has said in response to the legislation “these new powers really provide us with the tools to crack down on metal theft.” Ian Hetherington, the director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has welcomed the changes and described the Act as “a watershed moment for the industry.”

Main Changes

  • All scrap dealers and salvage operators in England and Wales must now apply for a license from their local authority. Mobile collectors will be required to obtain a licence for every local authority area in which they collect.
  • As part of the application for a licence, Councils will assess each applicant to determine if they are ‘suitable’ and will complete a Criminal Records check.
  • The Act also extends the ban of cash payments for scrap metal to all metal dealers. This includes scrap yard dealers, mobile collectors and vehicle salvage operators.
  • Although most of the new offences will come into force on 1 December 2013, the offence of paying cash for scrap metal comes into force on 1 October 2013.
  • Dealers will also need to keep proper records of scrap metal bought and sold including details of the metal and of the buyers and sellers.  


After 1 December 2013, those operating without a new licence can face prosecution with fines of up to £1,000.00. Failing to keep the proper records could also result in fines of up to £1,000 and scrap metal dealers who trade in cash can face fines of up to £5,000.00.

Dealers can also be issued with a ‘closure order’ to cease all scrap dealing. Breaching this order could result in an unlimited fine.

Councils now have increased powers to inspect and can refuse, alter or revoke licences to trade if dealers breach the regulations.  

What Do I Need to Do?

If you are already a registered scrap metal dealer, from 1 October until 15 October you can apply to your local authority for a temporary licence. This temporary licence will be valid until 1 December while the council processes the application in full. It is advised that applications are made in good time before the deadline as there is no guarantee that applications will be issued by 1 December. Application fees will be determined by individual local authorities.

There are two different types of licence:
1. Site licence - This allows the licensee to operate at any site that is specified in the licence that lies in the local authority's area (including making collections and deliveries). A copy of the licence must be displayed in a prominent place in an area accessible to the public.

2. Collector's licence – This authorises the licensee to operate as a mobile collector. Mobile collectors will need a licence for every local authority area in which they collect. A copy of the collector's licence must be displayed on any vehicle that is being used in the course of the dealer's business.

Both licences will be valid for 3 years and a licensee can hold only one licence in any local authority area.
Applicants should also submit a basic criminal record check or ‘basic disclosure’ with their application. This disclosure can take around 14 days to be obtained and a fee of £25.00 is charged. Applications for disclosure can be made at Disclosure Scotland.  

Dealers will also need to ensure that they keep proper records of scrap metal received and sold including the value and weight of the metal and proof of the seller’s or buyer’s identity and address. These records must be kept for a minimum of three years.

How We Can Help

If you are a scrap metal dealer or a vehicle salvage operator and need advice on how to ensure your business is operating legally, please contact us and you will be put in touch with one of our experts.
If you have breached or are being investigated for breaching the regulations, we can offer you the help and advice you need. 

Contact Us

For legal advice call our Business Crime Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9054 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.