When the label lies

Many shop owners and technicians may remember the previously prevalent black market in CFC-12. But as CFC-12’s use has waned, a new black market has emerged,
this time in HFC-134a.

Cases of counterfeit HFC-134a are not exactly new. Several years ago, a Harp refrigerant cylinder and its box were labeled as containing HFC-134a, when in fact, the
refrigerant in the cylinder was CFC-12. A close examination of the box reveals the fraud: Harp manufactures its cylinders and boxes in the United Kingdom, yet the
emblem on the box indicates it was manufactured in Portugal.
The box says Portugal, but only the most knowledgeable purchaser would know that legitimate Harp products are packaged in the UK. The tank inside this box was filled with CFC-12.

At the time, the price for CFC-12 in Malaysia – where the cylinder was discovered – was much lower than that for HFC-134a. Profit margin appears to have been the main motive for the alleged fraud in this case.

During 2005, HFC-134a was in short supply. Among other causes, that shortage was fueled by increased demand for motor vehicles in developing nations. More new cars are rolling off assembly lines in these countries, and as the demand for HFC-134a increased, stocks dwindled.

A casual buyer would believe the label, but this tank contained R415B, a blend refrigerant not approved for use in vehicles.

As worldwide supplies shrank, some suppliers resorted to creative and not so creative ways to meet the demand for HFC-134a. In the process, they violated U.S. customs,
trademark and environmental laws.

More recently, HFC-134a that does not meet the chemical requirements for purity has been sold in world markets. Now industry purity specifications (SAE J2776 and
ARI 700-2006) can be identified on packaging and containers
of refrigerant which meets the requirements.

As with everything else, the Latin phrase “caveat emptor”(buyer beware) applies. Be on the look out for counterfeit HFC-134a cylinders at a distributor near you, and
always examine the packaging carefully.

You can report incidents of suspected fraud to the EPA’s
toll-free hotline at 1-800-296-1996.

The Mobile Air Conditioning Society’s blog has been honored as the best business to business blog in the Automotive Aftermarket by the Automotive Communications Awards and the Car Care Council Women’s Board!

When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.

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You can E-mail us at macsworldwide@macsw.org or visit http://bit.ly/cf7az8 to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit http://bit.ly/9FxwTh to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.

The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.


About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues. www.macsw.org
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2 Responses to When the label lies

  1. Gus Rolotti says:

    I was reading the article ” When the label lies” posted by MACSWORLDWIDE. I just wanted to point out that there is some misinformation in it that may confuse your readers and other users of refrigerant in general.

    In particular, your article seems to confuse the fact that a company that makes or markets refrigerant and fills and sells full disposable cylinders probably DOES NOT make the cylinders and boxes themselves. This is true for Arkema, and for any other refrigerant companies I am aware of. Harp DOES NOT make disposable cylinders in the UK but fills them with refrigerant and markets them in the UK and elsewhere. I am not aware of any company in the UK actually making disposable cylinders.

    The article further cautions about boxes stating that they have been made in Portugal. You need to be aware that two of the largest manufacturers of disposable cylinders (and its boxes), Amtrol and Worthington Cylinders, are indeed based in Portugal and manufacture and export from there worldwide. The fact that a box has a seal indicating it has been made in Portugal is far from proof that the cylinder is counterfeit, but in fact it is likely to be genuine.

    The best advice on the article is “buyers beware”. We have seen recently cylinders that were copied almost exactly as the originals and were filled with refrigerants other than those in the label. Further, we have seen original legitimate cylinders that were fraudulently obtained from the authorized cylinder manufacturers by a third party and filled with low quality or other refrigerant from what the label says.

    Just because a box says made in Portugal is no indication that a cylinder is counterfeit. Also, just because the cylinder is (or looks) authentic, is no guarantee that the refrigerant it contains is pure or within specs. Buyers should indeed beware.

    Gus Rolotti
    Technical Marketing Director
    & Product Steward
    King of Prussia Tech Center
    Arkema Inc.

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