EU importers must check origins of solar products

In the wake of last week’s EU decision on Chinese-made solar products, project developers in Europe have been warned to be vigilant about the true origins of solar goods they import.

A law firm in Stuttgart, Germany, has warned EU companies importing solar wafers, cells and modules from South East Asia to be certain of the manufacturing origins of any imports as it is importers who will be liable to pay anti dumping duties due on any falsely labelled products.

The EU decided to impose steepling anti dumping and anti subsidy duties on any products manufactured in China by companies which have not signed up to the minimum module price agreement negotiated by EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht in the summer, penalties amounting to up to 65% of the cost of the goods.

Customs authorities suspect some Chinese manufacturers will produce wafers, cells and modules in China, ship them to a neighbouring country and attempt to label them as originating in the latter country to get around the EU duties.

Duties can be applied retroactively

Isabel Ludwig, customs expert for the Stuttgart-based Rödl & Partner, has warned such imports can have the appropriate duties retroactively applied to them by the authorities up to three years back and the import company would be liable to pay regardless of whether it was aware of any mislabelling.

Rödl and Partner says the European anti-fraud office (OLAF) will be watching for any spikes in import levels of solar products from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in the months ahead.

Any unusual peaks will see officials visit the exporters in question to establish where their products are manufactured.

If EU importers can be proven to be aware of mislabelling, the heavy import duties could be supplemented by further fines and, in extreme cases, jail terms.

"Importers of solar products should thoroughly examine their supply relationships, establish the origin of their products and, where appropriate, be able to prove it," Ludwig told pv magazine.