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Retailer warns trade to respond to new, second threat to sale of batteries


From 1 July it became illegal, without an Explosives Precursors and Poisons (EPP) licence, for the public to buy a motorcycle battery with a separate acid pack. Now a new Bill to control offensive weapons, if enacted, could put motorcycle battery retailers out of business, it has been warned.

It is claimed the terms of the Bill have the unintended consequence of prohibiting retailers from supplying a lead acid battery of any type to anyone under the age of 18 years, and from delivering to a residential address regardless of age.  

“The Offensive Weapons Bill has implications for all battery suppliers, not to mention inconveniencing the law-abiding public,” warns Julius Bates, a director of MDS Battery, based in Enfield.

“Clearly this was not what was intended when the Bill was drafted and I fully admit that I have a vested interest - we sell more than 1000 of this type of battery each month to residential addresses and there are other online sellers that will suffer, even potentially go out of business, as a result of the undesirable fall-out should the Bill become law.

“Although I have used a simplistic interpretation in order to make a point, the broader implications need to be highlighted to the committee debating the Bill so that it can be presented in a form that makes better sense in the real world.”

Bates said the relevant section of the Bill refers to the control of 'Corrosive Products'.

“In order to be a corrosive product it must ‘contain' a substance listed at the end of the Bill; in this case sulphuric acid at a concentration greater than 15% w/w. There is no clarification or distinction given so if this Bill is passed we will be prohibited from supplying a lead acid battery of any type to anyone under the age of 18 years and from delivering to a 'residential address' regardless of age.  A seller will obviously have to display 'all due diligence' when determining age prior to the sale as you are liable to prosecution if you get it wrong.  

“In this context it could be interpreted that a car or a motorcycle is a corrosive product because it contains sulphuric acid - as I suggested there is no distinction. It will also become illegal to have a corrosive substance in a 'public place'.  So, using the same analogy, it would become illegal to sell a car or scooter to an under 18 or, in fact, take your car or bike into a public place without 'good reason' or indeed to carry the battery home from the shop because you can no longer have it delivered."

Bates continued: “We all want to see knife and gun crime reduced and the thought of acid attacks is just repulsive; a reduction in all three areas is what the Bill is trying to achieve. The idea of controlling the sale of liquid sulphuric acid - or any of the other corrosives listed in the Bill - makes sense in terms of people using it as a weapon.  

“The heart of the problem, it seems to me, is that the authors of the Bill have not realised that sulphuric acid is widely used in other applications, such as batteries.”

Bates went on to explain the two main groups of lead acid battery. The first is the 'wet flooded' battery as you might have in your car. This contains liquid acid which could be drained from the battery. 

The second grouping is VRLA and AGM batteries. These are classed as 'non-spillable' because an exact quantity of acid is absorbed into the internal construction of the battery so there is no liquid. You could drill a hole in one and no liquid would leak.

VRLA (valve regulated lead acid) AGM batteries are used in all sorts of things including burglar alarms, emergency lighting, home gym equipment, mobility scooters, electric wheel chairs, golf buggies, lawn mowers, motorcycles and many other applications.

“The mobility scooter user, for instance, would have to visit a shop rather than have their batteries delivered to their home. In fact a user under the age of 18 wouldn't be allowed to buy the batteries in the first place and by the letter of the Bill would not be allowed to use the wheelchair in a 'public place' or to go to school with it.

“Unfortunately a good idea has really not been thought through and industry would appear not to have been consulted thoroughly enough to avoid unintended consequences and restrictions.

“We will be submitting evidence to the committee debating the bill and suggesting that AGM/VRLA/gel/sealed (A67 non-spillable) batteries should be exempt.”

Bates is advising members of the motorcycle trade to read the terms of the Bill using the following link:

“The link will allow members of the trade to have a look and come to their own conclusions. The Bill is at committee stage so anyone can provide evidence to the committee and we will be sending written evidence highlighting the flaws.”

Like-minded people can log their evidence at