Major fridge firm found openly selling F-gas
UK: One of the leading domestic refrigeration manufacturers has been found to be openly selling R134a refrigerant in contravention of the F-gas regulations.
While the air conditioning and refrigeration industry in Europe and the UK has struggled to comply with the strict restrictions of the F-gas regulations, non-compliance and the illegal trade in refrigerants has severely damaged the legitimate market and undermined the regulation’s environmental aims.
In December, the Cooling Post became aware that Electrolux, one of the leading domestic refrigeration suppliers, was offering R134a refrigerant via its UK online spares website.
The gas in 900g “rechargeable” cylinders was offered with no reference to the F-gas regulations and with, seemingly, no attempt to ensure that the purchaser carried the necessary F-gas certification. In addition, no deposit was being charged on the cylinder, nor did there appear to be any systems in place to ensure the cylinder was returned for refilling, as required by the F-gas regulations.
It was subsequently found that R134a was also being offered on a number of Electrolux’s European websites, including those serving Spain, Portugal and Poland. The gas was also being offered on the website of Electrolux’s subsidiary company Zanussi in the UK.
Both the Electrolux and Zanussi websites carrying the gas appeared at the top of Google when carrying out a simple search for R134a. Our own investigations also indicated that the gas had been available from these sites for more than 12 months.
The Cooling Post subsequently sought to purchase a cylinder from the Electrolux website. At no stage of the buying process were we asked for any F-gas accreditation/certification details. The site did contain a note that the product should be installed by a “professional technician” and contained a link to an “Electrolux Repairs” page. However, this repair service was only available for appliances “less than a year old”.
Despite fully expecting that our lack of an F-gas certificate would at some stage interrupt delivery, the cylinder duly arrived via DPD.
The cylinder arrived in a battered ill-fitting box that was clearly not designed for the purpose. The box was also marked as containing “Glass”. Inside, the cylinder was wrapped in a single sheet of bubble wrap, with no protection for the cylinder valve.
The delivery note indicated it had been despatched from Electrolux Parts in Durham and, oddly and erroneously, suggesting it had been delivered by Royal Mail.
Under “Fitting Instructions”, the delivery note instructed: “These parts should be fitted by a suitably qualified person, gas parts must be fitted by a Gas Safe Register engineer”.
The consignment contained no reference to, or any other information regarding, the return of the cylinder for refilling as required by the F-gas regulation (517/2014). Article 2 (13) of the regulation states that “a container which cannot be refilled without being adapted for that purpose or is placed on the market without provision having been made for its return for refilling” is defined as a “non-refillable container”. Non-refillable cylinders have been banned in the UK and Europe since 2007.
In fact, the cylinder proved impossible to return even under Electrolux’s published 14-day returns policy. We were informed that neither Royal Mail, which the Electrolux website directs you to use, nor DPD, who actually delivered our cylinder, would permit the return of the cylinder via their services.
As soon as the cylinder arrived, we informed the UK Environment Agency, the UK government body responsible for policing the F-gas regulation. We also informed Electrolux of our findings and the items were promptly removed from their websites.
Electrolux media relations manager Rupini Bergstrom commented: “We stopped all sales to ensure this situation is handled properly while we are conducting our internal investigation. The sales stop of F-Gas canisters and the review of our process applies to the UK and the EU. We take this matter very seriously and will apply all necessary measures in accordance with the outcome of our investigation, including contacting third parties and authorities where applicable. Our proposal is to keep you informed once we have further information.”