16081237_sThe European F-gas regulations make it illegal to sell refrigerant or pre-charged equipment to any non-certified companies or individuals. The UK government has so far rebuffed industry pleas that the establishment of a searchable national register is essential but what is happening in the rest of Europe?

A new survey by the European air conditioning and refrigeration contractors body AREA indicates that a national database has been established in at least seven member states but shows how the application of the F-gas regulations varies markedly across Europe.

Since January 1, anyone purchasing refrigerant or pre-charged equipment must be F-gas certified and it is the responsibility of all wholesalers and distributors to ensure that sales are only made to F-gas compliant companies and individuals. Details of the purchaser must be recorded and those records must be kept for a minimum of five years.

In the UK, suppliers have argued that despite the onus being placed on them to prove that they only sell to certified companies or individuals, they have no means of checking compliance. Even if the individual provides a registration/certification number, there is no way of checking whether that is correct – and there have been instances of people and companies using false numbers.

Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden all claim operative, accessible databases, according to AREA. Where no national register exists, the misunderstood, poorly conceived and haphazardly applied Data Protection Act appears to be the most common reason or excuse.

In Denmark, all companies and engineers dealing with F-gases are registered with Kølebranchens Miljøordning (KMO), a private company answerable to the Danish EPA. The database is publicly accessible and is financed by wholesalers who charge a fee for each litre of refrigerant they sell.

The government’s energy and environment agency ADEME is responsible for managing and maintaining the publicly accessible list of certified companies in France. The list does not include individuals because certification of persons is one of the criteria for a company to be certified.

Due to the fact that it was one of the last member states to set up a certification scheme, some might be surprised to learn that Italy also operates a government-sponsored searchable register database. The governments of Portugal, Slovakia and Spain also operate similar schemes.

The Swedish scheme is operated by Incert AB, a private company appointed by the accreditation body SWEDAC. While the company register is publicly accessible, details of individuals are only accessible if their name and certification number are known.

This would appear to be Sweden’s practical way of negotiating the Data Protection Act. Others are less open.

Austria only registers companies and, although not mandatory, most companies are registered. However, access to that list, according to AREA, is only available via a written request to the environment ministry. Certificates, it is said, are not available online in order to protect data security.

While Norway operates a publicly accessible register of companies it does not include all registered companies as those which do not wish to be on the list can be excluded. There is also no list of individuals.

There is no freely accessible centralised online register of F-gas certified companies in the Netherlands. Suppliers can only check if a customer is certified by emailing the government’s Ministry of the Environment. However, an accessible online register of all certified individuals is currently being prepared and is due to be operational this year.

Private registers of certified companies managed by inspection bodies Vianorm and Stek are publicly accessible but these only account for about 65% of the market.

A similar situation to the Netherlands exists in the UK, although without the future promise of an online national database.

Of the the three UK registration companies – Refcom, Quidos and Bureau Veritas – the largest, Refcom, operates a searchable online register but it’s not comprehensive as companies are allowed to opt out of listing under the Data Protection Act. The consolidated list of companies and individual is held by DEFRA, who can be contacted to confirm compliance.

Related stories:

UK wants national F-gas database – November 18, 2014
UK: The refrigeration and air conditioning industry is calling for a national register of F-gas certified  companies and individuals in order to ensure compliance with the F-gas regulations. Read more…