The noose is tightening on backyard workshops and technicians who attempt to handle fluorocarbon refrigerants (R134a in automotive’s case) without either the skills or the necessary license or authorisation.
Some of the new amendments to the Act which governs the licensing scheme have been circulated to industry by the Australian Refrigeration Council. Council chairman Mark Padwick, who is also VASA president, says professional repairers who have done the right thing will have nothing to fear from the amendments to the regulations. “Those who are trying to sneak in under the radar are the ones our auditors will be aiming for,” he added. Most complaints by VASA members continue to focus on the use of sandwich boards outside workshops, which offer ‘Regas (or topping up) for $69’.
Many workshops claim a right to continue this type of promotion, claiming that they use it as a ‘hook’ to get motorists who are unfamiliar with the regulations, inside their door. VASA can only take their word for it that once the customer is in their clutches, it is explained to them that a simple regas is illegal and that a proper system check is the minimum requirement to verify the integrity of the system to contain a greenhouse gas.
To date, the government has not specifically said that such signage is illegal, although the Code of Practice in automotive clearly says: A.4.1 The addition of refrigerant to an existing system charge to “top up” must not be carried out. VASA’s contention is that if topping up is illegal, why wouldn’t a sign claiming that a top up can be done at these premises for whatever figure, be legal? At best, VASA regards such inducements on sandwich boards as unprofessional, misleading and dishonest.
However, where the government has clamped down is where a business advertises regassing, top ups or anything else to do with maintaining or repairing R134a-charged systems, and the workshop has no authorisation and no licensed technicians. In these cases, they have committed an offence and the fine is $5500 for a body corporate and $1,100 for an individual.
So in brief, any workshop without the relevant permits which makes any representation that they can provide any service relating to handling of refrigerant is breaking the law.