Countermanding a previous notice, the UK Environment Agency has now announced that purchasing restrictions on refrigerants only apply to those recovering F-gases from MAC systems.
In June, the Environment Agency notified the MAC sector that, under the F-gas regulations, they could no longer purchase F-gas without demonstrating that it would be used by a qualified technician. This, the agency said, would prevent the ‘over-the-counter’ purchases of F-gas without proven evidence of refrigerant recovery qualification.
According to the Environment Agency, this interpretation of the legislation was questioned by unnamed UK industry stakeholders. DEFRA is said to have sought additional legal advice and, following further examination of the legislation, has concluded that such purchasing restrictions do not apply for the servicing of MAC, only for the recovery of F-gases from such systems.
In the new statement released last month, DEFRA declares: “Therefore, the UK Government believes that it remains legal to sell F-gases for use in mobile air-conditioning systems to those who do not hold recovery qualifications.”
“Such F-gas products must, nevertheless, still comply with the provisions of the 2014 Regulation, which requires that they are only sold in refillable containers (Article 11(1) and Annex III) with suitable provision having been made for its return for refilling,” it adds.
Not surprisingly, compliant garages are outraged at the recent re-definition of the Act.
On the Garage Wire website, a news service aimed at the independent garage, the md of one prominent vehicle air conditioning specialist describes it as a “loophole”, pointing out that everybody in the automotive market recovers, recycles and recharges.
Other commentators who had invested in complying with the F-gas regulations were more forthright in their condemnation. One stated that it was impossible to charge a used system without some, even trace, amount of recovery and that if a car has “no gas” then it must have a leak.
One auto trade expert told the Cooling Post that the majority of the cars they received with non-functioning or poorly-functioning air conditioning systems were due to refrigerant leaks.
The latest definition also allows car accessory shops to continue selling auto air conditioning “recharge” kits to the general public. To comply with the regulations a fully refundable deposit is charged on the canister by auto accessory shops. As one well-known high street outlet states on its website, it is required “to provide a duty of ensuring air conditioning canisters can be recycled and refilled in an environmentally friendly manner”.