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The clampdown on the sale of sulphuric acid in the wake of horrific criminal attacks and its potential use in explosives is about to have far-reaching effects for motorcycle battery resellers and consumers who could face jail and a large fine if they break the new law.

From 1 July it will be become illegal for a member of the public to purchase a motorcycle battery that is supplied with a separate acid pack without them holding an Explosives Precursors and Poisons (EPP) licence.

From the beginning of next month all motorcycle batteries must be filled by the retailer before being sold to a member of the public in the UK who does not possess a valid EPP licence.

The new legislation means sulphuric acid has been reclassified as a regulated substance and members of the public wishing to acquire, possess or use sulphuric acid above a 15% concentration will need an EPP licence to do so.

Distributors and dealers will not need an EPP licence providing they are acquiring, importing, possessing or using sulphuric acid for purposes connected with their trade or business, although they may be asked to provide evidence of this and explain the intended use of the chemicals.

Businesses do, however, have an obligation to report suspicious transactions (both business to business and to members of the public), disappearances and thefts of sulphuric acid. This also includes sulphuric acid contained within batteries.

The new rules follow an industry-wide consultation by the government which has introduced measures to further control the sale of sulphuric acid which has been reclassified as an explosive precursor. Explosive precursors are chemicals that may be used in the illicit manufacture of explosives.

An EPP licence is not required for batteries supplied with the acid already inside. These are exempt as a filled battery is classified as “specific object”.  The exemption is provided by new paragraph 2 (9) (b) of the Poisons Act 1972: A substance or mixture is excluded if … it is contained in a specific object.

It is the responsibility of all distributors, dealers and retailers to ensure they comply with these new regulations.

Click here for government guidance for businesses.

As stated, under the new rules, distributors and dealers are required to report suspicious transactions (both business to business and to members of the public), disappearances and thefts of sulphuric acid. This also includes sulphuric acid contained within batteries.

A transaction is suspicious if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the substance in question is intended for the illicit manufacture of explosives, or, is intended for any illicit use.

It is thought unlikely that many consumers will apply for an EPP licence to buy a motorcycle battery. However, in the event that a customer claiming to have a licence does want to buy an unfilled battery with a separate acid pack, the retailer must inspect the licence along with the forms of identification specified by the licence.

The retailer must:

1. Ask to see their licence and associated photographic ID

2. Compare the photograph to the customer

3. Verify the photographic ID reference against the ID reference on the front page of the licence

4. Check the product being purchased is allowed as part of the licence conditions (substance, concentration, quantity)

5. Record the transaction details in the table on the back of the licence.

Click here for guidance on checking EPP licences.

A warning label indicating that it is an offence for members of the public to acquire, possess or use the substance without an EPP licence must be affixed to the packaging.

Guidance on producing the warning label.

If the battery is to be sold unfilled with an acid pack, it is the retailer’s responsibility to check for a valid EPP licence, attach an appropriate warning label and report any suspicious activity.

Failure to do so could result in prosecution, a fine and up to two years in prison.

Selling online

For online transactions, the retailer must comply with all the requirements set out by the new regulations.

For all online transactions, the online seller will need to see a digital scan of the valid EPP licence before completing the transaction. The battery with acid pack must then be delivered using a specialist courier who is able to follow the full EPP licence verification procedure at the doorstep before giving the customer possession of the product.

If selling to members of the public who do not have an EPP licence, online retailers will need to ensure that the filled battery is packed appropriately and labelled correctly.

Please note that some types will require additional packaging and special shipping arrangements to ensure compliance with ADR regulations.

Detailed guidance for online sellers.

Consumers who want to buy batteries with separate acid packs need to apply and receive a valid EPP licence, at a cost of £39.50, prior to purchase.

From 1 November 2018 it will become an offence to possess or use sulphuric acid at concentrations of over 15%, without a valid EPP licence. This includes bottles of battery electrolyte that have not yet been put into a motorcycle battery.

Apply for an EPP licence here.

The penalties for possession without an EPP licence or supplying restricted substances without verifying that the member of public has a valid EPP licence can be a custodial sentence of two years and a large fine.

Failure to enter transaction details onto the EPP licence or not attaching the warning label has a maximum fine of £500.

Failure to meet the reporting requirements can attract a fine or custodial sentence of up to three months.