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UK a hub for illegal refrigerant sales

UK: There are concerns that the UK has become a centre for sales of refrigerant in illegal disposable cylinders, a container which has been banned from use in Europe for over 10 years.

In addition to evidence of contractors being contacted directly with offers of refrigerant including R404A and R410A in disposable cylinders, a search of eBay reveals a number of vendors offering R404A in disposables. Some of those UK vendors are also the source of listings on other European eBay sites including Ireland and France.

Since being contacted by the Cooling Post, eBay has deleted some of the items and insists that any listings that don’t comply with its policies will be removed.

All the suspect listings use images of disposable cylinders and some clearly state that the cylinders are disposable. It is not known whether the refrigerant has been imported outside of the quota system but it is clearly avoiding UK customs inspections and policing by the Environment Agency.

The huge increases in the price of high GWP refrigerants in the UK and Europe has prompted some individuals to seek alternative sources for the gas, and the lack of policing of the F-gas regulations has presented them with the opportunity for large profits.   

The prices being quoted on eBay range from £280 to around £400 for the 10.9kg cylinders. This represents a large saving on prices quoted by reputable UK refrigerant sources where R404A currently sells for anything from around £60-£80/kg. By contrast, R404A prices in Turkey, a known source for some of this refrigerant, are currently as low as £8/kg. 

Established suppliers have raised concerns as to the purity of some of this refrigerant and its effects on system efficiencies and reliability. Of greater concern is that the current higher prices, globally, might encourage a reappearance of the dangerous counterfeits which caused a number of deaths in 2011. While Europe was generally little affected at that time, there are worries that the much higher prices here, combined with lax import controls, could leave Europe exposed.

An eBay spokesman told the Cooling Post: “We work with the police and regulators to ensure that all listings comply with the law. There are blocks in place to prevent the listing of illegal items, and we also constantly monitor our marketplace to enforce this.”

Incredibly, some of the illegal material now removed from eBay’s UK marketplace also included the CFCs R12 and R502 from a source in the USA.

Related stories:

Phase down sparks rise in illegal sales21 March 2018
EUROPE: With the F-gas regulations beginning to bite and higher GWP refrigerants becoming expensive and scarce, evidence of illegal imports and sales is increasing. Read more…

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