Almost 100 people attended two seminars in Birmingham hosted by Logicool and REFCOM designed to cut through the confusion surrounding the F-Gas legislation.
One session was for contractors and the other for resellers, which included manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. The presentations focused on a number of misconceptions regarding the wording and interpretation of the legislation.
Karl Richardson of Logicool began by highlighting a number of statements with the potential to cause confusion and asked Graeme Fox of REFCOM to interpret the legislation correctly.
The presentation and conversation then developed to focus on a number of key questions, dubbed F-Gas Myths and Realities. These primarily focused on certification, as well as the sale and resale of refrigerant and equipment to trade and non-trade:
Myth: F-Gas qualification is not Company F-Gas. The Company F-Gas certificate is required in all instances for purchasing. An F-Gas qualification is not a recognition of competence. The Company F-Gas is the legislative requirement.
2. Myth or Reality? An HVAC “installer” company does not need to directly employ F-Gas qualified engineers – their subcontractors being F-Gas qualified is enough for them to obtain company registration and certification.
Myth: When applying for Company F-Gas the applying company or individual needs to provide evidence that they employ (not sub-contract) qualified personnel and also “have the necessary tools and procedures… available to the natural persons engaged in activities for which certification is required”. Essentially this means that a company applying for Company F-Gas MUST directly employ qualified engineers and cannot use sub-contractors as nominated engineers.
3. Myth or Reality? I’m doing an install for my mate/parents/family friend/etc. I am F-Gas qualified, so I am not breaching any regulations. If not, I’m covered by my employer’s REFCOM registration.
Myth: Please see response to Question 1. All sales are to entities with Company F-Gas only.
4. Myth or Reality? I’ve got some spare refrigerant I don’t need – I can sell it to anyone who is F-Gas qualified.
Myth: Please see response to Question 1. All sales are to entities with Company F-Gas only. You must have a Company F-Gas registration if you want to either install, maintain, service, repair, decommission systems or purchase refrigerant.
5. Myth or Reality? A reseller can legally sell a system online without mention of F-Gas, providing that the purchaser supplies proof at a later date that the system was installed by a qualified engineer or company.
Myth: Evidence of who will be installing the system must be provided BEFORE the supply of the system. Resellers should not supply systems until evidence of Company F-Gas is provided prior to the sale and supply of the system.
This subject raised a number of concerned responses and it was agreed that a large percentage of online resellers are in contravention of the regulation. Many of the attendees from the engineers seminar demanded a stop to this and questioned who is policing the regulation and why this activity is allowed to continue. Mr Fox explained that Refcom is a certification body only but that complaints could be made to the Environment Agency, which is are duty bound to follow up on complaints and to copy in REFCOM, which is monitoring compliance.
6. Myth or Reality? I don’t need to have an F-Gas certificate because I do car AC and it is the MAC Directive not F-Gas that covers this sector.
Myth: Having a MAC certificate does not therefore allow you to be competent on the application of other refrigerants such as R410a and R32. All purchasers of refrigerant require a Company F-Gas certificate. The MAC enables purchase only for the use of refrigerants in car air conditioning systems.
7. Myth or Reality? A reseller can sell to anyone who holds an F-Gas qualification.
Myth: Company F-Gas only. Someone purchasing equipment to resell on has to abide by the same rules as the main wholesaler/distributor. That reseller does not need to hold a REFCOM registration, as the last sentence in paragraph 4 of Article 11 says, but the seller must beware of those seeking to circumvent the rules.
8. Myth or Reality? I’m a wholesaler so I don’t need to be registered myself.
Agreed that this is potentially debateable but how many wholesalers/distributors or resellers do not get involved with technical support on-site? Mr. Fox asked the audience: “Do your technical support staff go to site to assist your customers with commissioning, fault diagnostics etc? Do they ever physically touch the gauges or hoses? Therefore, resellers should be registered under the Company scheme.’’
Key outcomes from the day
When reading the F-Gas legislation it needs to be understood that “Company” does not mean a trading company. A Company F-Gas is not only required for a trading entity. Anyone, including qualified individuals installing a system containing F-Gases or purchasing F-Gases, requires Company F-Gas Certification. One key piece of information cleared up on the day is that in this instance the word “Company” is legislative language. An F-Gas qualified engineer installing a system for a friend at the weekend requires their own Company F-Gas certificate. Failure to produce evidence of this when purchasing a system and failure of the reseller to check for this engineers Company F-Gas Certificate both contravene the regulations.
The seller of the equipment has a requirement to check for the Company F-Gas Certificate in advance of the supply of the equipment. No Company F-Gas Certificate equals no supply of equipment. Any reseller operating outside of this is in breach of the regulations.
The most emotive subject of the day was online sales. At the time of writing, it is possible for anyone to purchase a DX air conditioning system in the space of five minutes without being asked for evidence of F-Gas certification. These systems can be sourced from a number of online outlets in the UK and a number of these are operated by installing contractors who hold a Company F-Gas Certificate but then are in potential breach of the regulations with regards to online sales.
Several contractors said that they had learned from the day and that the efforts of Logicool and REFCOM had helped explain some of the confusing text within the regulation. Feedback from the suppliers conference was even more positive. One major national wholesaler and one major manufacturer said that they were going to review their own procedures with immediate effect. Another major supplier commented “to say it was informative was something of an understatement”.
Karl Richardson asked Graeme Fox whether a version of REFCOM Elite could be set up for suppliers so that some companies could opt to join an agreed code of conduct that would work above and beyond both the existing legislation, and could be termed as the “spirit of the regulation”. Since then a number of resellers have asked if this has potential and REFCOM is now exploring the possibilities of this idea.
Also in attendance was Paul Singh from the Birmingham Society of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (BSRA) who assisted with the Q&A. Logicool used the opportunity of funding the event to help increase awareness of the local society.