Online sales of refrigerant are creating significant challenges for enforcing F-Gas regulation, Refcom head Graeme Fox has said in a reflection of wider European concerns
The cooling industry has expressed growing concern over the apparent inability of regulatory authorities to restrict online sales of refrigerant that does not comply with F-Gas regulation.
Refcom head Graeme Fox said that whereas F-Gas legislation sets stringent standards on the amount of higher GWP gas that can be made available in a specific market, sales via online marketplaces and social media are slipping through the net of current legal mechanisms.
Mr Fox has warned that soaring prices for higher GWP products and a steady reduction in quota are driving a conviction that more must be done to police online refrigerant sales and subsequent installation work across Europe.
He said, “It is proving very difficult to regulate online sales, so we must police how gas is being charged when obtained by the end-user.”
Mr Fox added that the issue of policing was not linked or related to any specific online marketplace site such as eBay. Instead, concerns held by Refcom and other similar organisations across the EU to a wider array of online services, making it increasingly difficult to police.
While it is supposed to be a legal requirement that an online seller must provide evidence of their F-Gas registration, Mr Fox said there was limited capacity in the UK to enforce the process.
He said his own research had found that major sales sites were not asking for evidence of F-Gas compliance to be uploaded before reaching the ‘pay now’ button.
Meanwhile, civil penalties introduced in April that are intended to step up action against individuals failing to comply with F-Gas regulation were still not being acted upon, Mr Fox added.
It is understood that efforts to provide evidence to UK authorities such as Refcom have been deemed insufficient. This is despite requests from the organisation for guidance on what information was required by regulators to get the penalties to stick.
Mr Fox noted that he had asked the European Commission for a clampdown on providing pre-charged split systems for cooling across the EU during the review phase of F-Gas legislation that took place in Brussels in March. The proposals, which were intended to ensure that gas must be fitted by a registered installer, were not taken up by the commission.