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BELGIUM: DuPont to fight EC coolant objections "every step of the way"

By Simon Warburton | 23 October 2014

Coolant saga takes yet another twist with EC Statement of Objections

Coolant saga takes yet another twist with EC Statement of Objections

Dupont says it will 'fight every step of the way' against European Commission (EC) moves that say it may have breached European Union (EU) anti-trust rules along with fellow-chemical producer, Honeywell.

The EC says Honeywell and Dupont may have broken anti-trust rules in their joint venture to develop air-conditioning refrigerant, r1234yf, whose use Mercedes-Benz has rejected in favour of its r134a variant.

Brussels has sent a Statement of Objections - hotly contested by both Honeywell and Dupont - saying the cooperation "may have limited its availability and technical development in breach of European Union anti-trust rules."

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU anti-trust rules.

If, after the parties have exercised their rights of defence, the Commission concludes there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10% of a company's annual worldwide turnover.

However, Honeywell has hit back at the move describing it as "baseless" and insisting it is at odds with the EU's own laws encouraging collaboration for development.

"Honeywell is confident our practices are consistent with the law and the Commission will conclude we acted in full compliance with European Union competition rules," said a statement emailed to just-auto.

"By collaborating on expensive and risky development, Honeywell and DuPont were able to develop 1234yf in time to meet the MAC [Mobile Air Conditioning] Directive's 2017 deadline.

"Thanks to that swift development, HFO-1234yf is currently being used in nearly 2m cars around the world, reducing the global warming potential of those cars' air conditioning systems by more than 99.9%. 

"Honeywell's and DuPont's work also ensured a competitive market for HFO-1234yf. Honeywell and DuPont are marketing HFO-1234yf independently and in direct competition with one another."

The unexpected move by Brussels is just the latest twist in an extraordinary saga, which has dragged on for years and which has seen a whole host of actors jostle for position, including the highest Court in France, the EC, the German government and not least Mercedes-Benz, which insists on using its r134a alternative until it develops a CO2-based air-conditioning system.

Mercedes maintains the r1234yf coolant could present a fire hazard in certain conditions and was formally authorised in May to use its r134a variant in its A, B, CLA and SL models, by France's highest Court, the Conseil d'Etat.

For its part, DuPont insists it has "complied at all times with applicable laws" in its development and commercialisation of HFO-1234yf, insisting it will defend itself "vigorously" against the Commission's allegations.

"We will fight this every step of the way, as it has no basis in law or fact," said DuPont Chemicals & Fluoroproducts president, Thierry Vanlancker.

"We are disappointed in the European Commission and in the process leading up to this point.  DuPont and Honeywell developed HFO-1234yf jointly in response to the European Union's Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive.

"Without DuPont and Honeywell's joint development, HFO-1234yf would not have been successfully developed and brought to market and there would today be no commercially available solution satisfying the MAC Directive's criteria. 

From the outset, the companies have marketed and sold the refrigerant separately and independently, as competitors in the marketplace."

Vanlancker maintained the EU MAC Directive "remains in force today," with all new vehicles required to use a refrigerant with a GWP of under 150 by January 2017.