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Are you aware of Illegal Solar Modules for sale in the UK?

Posted: 13-05-2016
The UK is currently experiencing a high level of surplus solar panel stock and installers are advised to use caution when deciding where to purchase their panels. The following information should help.

Low Cost Chinese Panels and the "Minimum Import Price" (MIP)

Currently there is an agreement between the EU and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to not sell Chinese made solar panels in the EU below a specified price. This is known as the "Minimum Import Price" (MIP). You can read more on this here.

Only Chinese companies officially approved may sell their Chinese made panels in the EU and any not approved are subject to a tariff of 53.4%.

Taiwan and Malaysia Imports

Due to many Chinese companies circumventing this agreement, and shipping Chinese made panels via Taiwan and Malaysia, the EU have recently imposed the same tariffs on panels from those two countries. This is unless they have been genuinely made by an exempted company who have been approved by the EU. Details on the exempt companies can be found here.

A number of Chinese companies are avoiding these tariffs by the following methods:
  • Products are made in China but then using false documentation are being made to appear like they have been made and shipped from another country.
  • Products are made in China and imported at the MIP into the EU by a "shell" company which then sells those panels on at a substantial loss below MIP. After a while this shell company is shut down with large losses.
  • Another is that modules are sold at MIP, but then costs such as marketing expenses are covered by the manufacturer at such a rate that the effective buy price is lower than MIP.

What this means in the UK

The current MIP has been set at €0.56c/Wp but allowing for other costs, the minimum cost of a Chinese made module into a UK warehouse is just over €0.57c/Wp at the current Euro/Sterling exchange rate. These would typically be sold by a UK based distributor for between 47p and 50p/Wp depending on volumes and the exchange rate.
If you are consistently offered solar panels below 45p/Wp you should ensure they have been made in or imported correctly into the EU. Across Europe the various tax authorities are investigating imports that are non-compliant with the EU/China MIP agreement. Any warranty offered on panels not imported correctly may at best be very difficult to claim and possibly worthless.

There is a perception that only the official importer of the panels may be liable for the duty. In fact, anyone who purchases them knowing they have been imported evading the correct duty may be investigated and held liable. This is especially true if the original importer no longer exists.

  • Where panels are being claimed to have been made outside of China you should ask your supplier for a "Certificate of Origin" which states clearly where the panels have been made. If that is in Malaysia or Taiwan you should check the manufacturer named is on the exempted list.
  • Where panels are made in China but consistently sold below 45p/Wp you should ask your supplier to confirm that they are satisfied that they have not been imported in a manner intended to circumvent the MIP agreement, and therefore avoid the duty that would otherwise be due.
SOLFEX Ltd always checks and verifies the source of the products it imports and sells into the UK market and for all our modules we have secured a "Certificate of Origin" for both the modules and the cells.

Where possible an independent factory audit report providing evidence that the factory is fully capable of manufacturing the modules is also obtained. SOLFEX Ltd has independent OST factory inspection reports for Enhance Photovoltaics modules produced in Taiwan & undertaking certificates and proof of origin for Chinese modules purchased at MIP.
For more information about the modules we offer, contact our photovoltaic sales team on; 01772 312847 or email photovoltaicsales@solfex.co.uk
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