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IRI March 6, 2019 0 Comments

Illegal refrigerant imports and better enforcement of the European F-gas phase down will be discussed at a meeting of the EU’s Environment Council on Tuesday (March 5).

The European Commission has previously insisted that the illegal imports only involve small quantities of gas, and are not having a “disruptive effect” on the quota system. Many in the air conditioning and refrigeration industry disagree, and insist that the illegal black market is far larger than the EC’s estimates.

The topic has found its way onto the Environment Council agenda after MEPs and industry raised concerns, alleging that “substantial amounts” of HFCs are being imported illegally into the EU, jeopardising the European F-gas phase down’s environmental integrity and hindering fair competition.

Refrigerant supplier Chemours recently claimed the illegal black market was equivalent to 20% of the legal F-gas quota.

The Cooling Post first raised concerns over the illegal activity last year, much of it being imported in illegal disposable cylinders and widely sold over the internet.

The Polish industry group PROZON recently reported that the illegal activity amounted to 40% of the country’s entire F-gas demand, and was costing the Polish exchequer an estimated €7m in lost revenue. This week, the Greek contractors group Hellas Union Fgas has claimed that illegal imports were equal to an incredible 80% of its total F-gas requirement.

While the Commission insists that the extent of the problem can only be assessed after 31 March 2019, when undertakings have reported their imports for 2018, it says it is monitoring the situation “very closely”.

In that respect, the Commission has requested member states to investigate possible cases of illegal trade and impose penalties where needed, as required under the regulation. To identify possible offenders, the Commission has also asked member states for their assistance in comparing customs’ surveillance data with data reported under the regulation.

Recognising the importance of customs involvement in stopping the illegal trade, the EC is also creating an IT application to be made available to custom authorities giving possible automatic alerts on potential illegal trade cases.

The European Commission also insists that it will not hesitate to open infringement procedures in cases where lack of enforcement appears to threaten the success of this policy. The current situation is not known, but at the end of last year, DG Clima told the Cooling Post that there were, at that time, no infringement case linked to the illegal trade in HFCs.

Illegal F-gas trade on EU council agenda