The Solar Trade Association (STA) has issued a briefing note to its members, warning them of the dangers of purchasing modules that appear to have evaded the imposition of solar duties.

The association notes that it has been made aware of numerous reports that companies are masking the origin of modules or cells to avoid the EU-imposed duties.

Specifically, the STA notes that importing modules which contain cells of Chinese origin from countries such as Malaysia or Korea are liable for solar duties. In addition, the association warns that Chinese origin modules shipped via third countries and then importing them into the EU with false origin are also liable to duties.

The STA writes that purchasing these modules could result in a number of issues: “The liability for the applicable anti-dumping and countervailing duties rests in principle with the importer of record [their emphasis].  Pursuant to EU customs rules, claims for evaded anti-dumping and countervailing duties could go back three years or more if under EU Member State legislation, this constitutes a criminal offence with a longer statute of limitations. Interests and fines will also be due.

“In addition, depending on the scope of the applicable EU Member State national law, and the facts such as if the customer could be considered as an accomplice in the criminal/customs offence being committed, it is impossible to completely exclude that the customer buying the goods ‘delivered duty paid’ (DDP) be held criminally liable for AD and AS duties, interests and fines.”

To help companies purchasing solar modules supplied from outside China, the STA has put together a four point checklist:

  • Ensure you obtain a certificate of origin from the supplier for both the cells and the modules
  • Obtain a declaration from the supplier with:

    • The description of the production process and production equipment that yielded the modules and the cells
    • A list of non-originating materials that were used in the production of the modules or cells that are customs cleared in the EU
    • Cells not produced within the same factory as the modules should have a description of their production process and a list of non-originating materials used in their production with indication of the origin of these materials
  • Obtain the export declaration form from the country from which the modules, cells were exported to make sure that they were not exported from bonded warehouse which may indicate that they were imported into that country rather than produced there
  • Obtain a declaration from your suppliers that the modules and cells do not have Chinese origin and were not merely transhipped through the country of export, possibly with a hold harmless clause if Customs authorities contest origin and provenance.

The STA’s warning follows a report from Dutch Solar Magazine, which stated that several containers of solar modules have been detained at Rotterdam port following suspicions that the modules might have Chinese origins.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Paul Barwell, CEO of the STA added: “It is crucial that companies follow these guidelines to mitigate any form of liability to their own company. The rules on anti-dumping and those of the price undertaking are complex and we want to advise our members accordingly. Recent events in Rotterdam, where several brands of imported panels were detained by customs for further investigation demonstrate the rising concern over proof of origin.”

Building on the STA’s warning, Jerry Hamilton, director of renewables and energy solutions for Rexel said: “Evading solar duties is yet another example of some companies’ willingness to sacrifice quality processes in their operation for the sake of profit, and underlines the importance of dealing with a reputable organisation that recognises that compliance in every area of their business instills confidence in the end-user.

“Observing this legal requirement should not be considered optional, and this alongside rigorous due diligence and provision of full warranties should be the standard that every PV supplier maintains, for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Rexel’s own stringent international trading policies are there for our customers’ protection, and those that choose to exploit any ‘grey areas’ will ultimately have to face the consequences. Just as a customer selecting panels needs to realise that they are not all the same in terms of quality, performance and longevity, neither are the companies that supply them, and the same due care should be applied when selecting a supplier.”