13b1164BELGIUM: As expected, the European Commission has issued an infringement notice against Germany for failing to enforce the MAC directive.

In its letter of formal notice, the Commission has requested that the German authorities fully apply the Directive to vehicles produced by all their manufacturers. The Commission has also sent a pilot letter – a notice of potential infringement proceedings – to the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg that have informed the Commission of similar practices (extension of old vehicle approvals) by their respective type-approval authorities, requesting more information on the situation.

The proceedings against Germany have been provoked by Daimler’s concerns over the safety of R1234yf the car industry’s preferred replacement for R134a. Under the MAC Directive, refrigerants with a GWP above 150 were banned in all new cars from January 1, 2013. Daimler insisted that it would continue using R134a (with its GWP of 1300) until it had perfected systems using its preferred option CO2.

In a statement, the Commission insisted that car manufacturers were free to choose any refrigerant/system as long as it fulfils the obligation of the directive. It explains that car manufacturers chose the new refrigerant HFO 1234yf in 2009, two years prior to the original deadline in 2011. In light of problems with the supply of the new gas, the Commission agreed to extend the deadline to December 31, 2012.

The Commission notes that in September 2012 one manufacturer (Daimler) raised concerns about the safety of the use of HFO 1234yf and declared that it would continue to use R134a.

In December of that year it received a request from the German authorities to consider “the possible extension of the right to use refrigerant R134a” “for a further six months” in the vehicles that were considered unsafe by Daimler.

In response to a request from the European Commission in February 2013, member states informed the Commission of Daimler’s non-compliance in their respective markets. The relevant authorities also stated in their correspondence that they were analysing the way forward to ensure compliance. German authorities called on Daimler to conform as soon as possible.

On March 18 Commission vice-president Antonio Tajani wrote to the German ministers for Economy and for Transport to state that “the current situation of non-compliance by some manufacturers is endangering the proper functioning and consistency of the internal market (and) is also leading to unfair competition in the internal market.”

In March, the Commission asked the German authorities to provide details of measures that the authorities intended to put in place to ensure compliance with the MAC Directive.

On May 23, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) informed the Commission that it had accepted Daimler’s request to extend a previous type-approval to the vehicles covered by the MAC problem.

In June the Commission launched an investigation, requesting specific information on this situation from the Germans. The subsequent explanations were rejected by the Commission.

Current Situation

The Commission criticises the German approval authorities for not ensuring compliance and not imposing adequate remedial measures on Daimler. It also blames the German authorities for accepting Daimler’s request to discontinue the use of type approvals granted to vehicles using the new refrigerant which were already being produced and put on the market. It also says the German authorities granted extensions of old vehicle approvals to those vehicles, which in effect, allowed a temporary exclusion of the concerned vehicles from compliance with the MAC Directive.

The Commission says it considers that there are indications that the extensions were requested with the sole purpose of circumventing the application of the MAC Directive, thus depriving it of its intended effects.

Under EU infringement procedures, Germany has two months to respond to the Commission’s letter of formal notice.