An AREA internal survey reveals that nearly 80% of the industry is aware of illegal trade of some of the most commonly used HFCs. This observation is made while a decrease in availability of these refrigerants has been witnessed by 60% of the industry.

The proportion of the industry experiencing a decrease in refrigerant availability varies from 50% for R134a to 60% and more for R507A, R410A and R404A. Low GWP refrigerants, on the other hand, seem to show no shortage. These trends are of course to be linked to the quotas from Fgas regulation HFC phase-down scheme. However, they become more of a concern when put into perspective with illegal trade.

Indeed, 80% of the RACHP contracting industry declares awareness of illegal trade of these refrigerants. The figure climbs to nearly 90% for R134a. R32, however, does not seem affected. It must be pointed out that 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 too though again not all countries are equally exposed. The percentages of awareness remains more modest between 40% and 50% depending on the type of refrigerant. 

How to address these issues? When informed by the industry, national authorities are generally trying to take action. However, they are often seen as lacking resources and/or expertise. Industry pleads in favour of more controls, higher penalties, increased awareness of end-users, tackling illegal Internet sales and closer cooperation with customs.

Remaining supportive of the Fgas Regulation and in line with the message recently given on illegal trade of refrigerants, AREA and its members intend to continue working with European and national authorities to achieve a better enforcement.

The AREA internal survey was carried out in October 2018 and gathers the replies of 18 member associations from 16 EU countries.