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Industry call to end illegal F-gas sales

BELGIUM: European refrigeration and air conditioning contractors have called for action after a survey reveals that nearly 90% of the industry is aware of the illegal trade in refrigerants.

The survey by AREA amongst its European contractor members backs reports by the Cooling Post of an increasing illegal trade this year in the most commonly used HFCs. Reports of refrigerant thefts are also said to be increasing.

While AREA’s members say that national authorities are generally trying to take action when informed of incidents by the industry, they are seen to be lacking in resources and/or expertise. But in order to counter the illegal activity, the respondents called for more controls, higher penalties, increased awareness amongst end-users, action on illegal internet sales and closer cooperation with customs.

As reported, most of the illegal activity is in the higher GWP refrigerants and began as the European phase down started to bite and prices rose. R134a has been a particular target with 87% of AREA’s respondents claiming to be aware of illegal activity with this gas. Investigations by the Cooling Post suggest that much of the activity is being driven by the car air conditioning trade. Other gases affected included R404A (82% awareness), R410A (81%) and R507A (64%).

The survey is not specific in defining the type of illegal activity witnessed, but the Cooling Post has previously reported on a range of issues including illegal imports, sales of refrigerant in banned disposable cylinders and sales to uncertified individuals and companies in clear breach of the F-gas regulations.

The issue seems more pressing in EU border countries. It also appears to have worsened since the beginning of the year.

Reports of refrigerant’s theft are also increasing, although this is said to be more prevalent in some countries than others.

Sixteen countries took part in the AREA survey – Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Joint appeal

Last month, AREA was joined by EPEE, the HFC refrigerant producers group EFCTC, and the French refrigerant group ADC3R, to call for a better enforcement of the EU F-gas regulation.

Against a background of a growing illegal trade in refrigerants, AREA secretary general Olivier Janin said: “Authorities are ultimately responsible for the proper enforcement of the F-gas regulation and we call on all actors – including EU and national competent authorities – to also play their part in enforcing stricter controls at EU borders.”

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End this F-gas farce – 9 September 2018
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NETHERLANDS: Refrigerant businesses in the Netherlands have joined the condemnation of the widespread abuse of the F-gas regulations through “alternative” sales outlets. Read more…

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Illegal refrigerant costs Greece €20m – 23 July 2018
GREECE: The Greek air conditioning and refrigeration industry has accused EU member state Bulgaria as being a gateway for illegal refrigerant from Albania, Macedonia and Turkey. Read more…

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Government rejects F-gas concerns – 10 July 2018
UK: The UK government insists it will maintain the HFC phase down post-Brexit but has ignored claims that the Environment Agency does not have the adequate resources to tackle compliance. Read more…

UK failing to enforce F-gas regulations – 25 April 2018
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UK a hub for illegal refrigerant sales – 23 March 2018
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. Read more…

Phase down sparks rise in illegal sales – 21 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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