USB C

The European Commission has made its first tentative steps towards legislating for a “common charging solution” for electronic devices, setting the stage for a battle with Apple, one of few companies still using proprietary charging systems.

In an announcement on Thursday, the Commission said it was putting forward legislation to make USB-C the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.

This, it said, was an important step against “e-waste and consumer inconvenience caused by the prevalence of different, incompatible chargers for electronic devices.”

Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for the Internal Market, said: “Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary.

It’s time for one common charger for your many devices. 📱🔌 European consumers are frustrated as incompatible chargers…

Posted by European Commission on Thursday, 23 September 2021

“We are putting an end to that. With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste.”

Aside from standardising charging ports, the Commission is also calling for the unbundling of the sale of a charger from the sale of an electronic device, harmonised fast charging, and improved information for consumers.

The proposal for a revised Radio Equipment Directive will now need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council by ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision).

After this, the Commission expects a transition period of 24 months from the date of adoption to provide “ample” time for the industry to adapt.

Background

In 2020, approximately 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices were sold in the EU, according to the Commission.

On average, consumers own around three mobile phone chargers, of which they use two on a regular basis. Despite this, 38 per cent of consumers report having experienced problems at least once that they could not charge their mobile phone because available chargers were incompatible.

The situation is “not only inconvenient but also costly” for consumers, who spend approximately €2.4 billion annually on standalone chargers that do not come with electronic devices. In addition, disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to pile up to 11,000 tonnes of e-waste every year.

Apple is one of the last remaining holdouts against the adoption of the USB-C chargers for the new models of its phones, instead of requiring a ‘Lightning’ connector, though new models of its laptops and iPads now use USB-C charging.

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