Smartphones: EU introduces one charger from 2024

An end to incompatible chargers cluttering drawers? Under an agreement reached on Tuesday between member states and MEPs, the EU will introduce a universal wired charger for smartphones, tablets, consoles and digital cameras from 2024, to the chagrin of Apple, which opposed it.

By fall 2024, a number of cable-charged devices – mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, portable game consoles, portable speakers… – must be equipped with a USB-C port in order to be sold in the EU, regardless of manufacturer. By spring 2026, the same single charger requirement will apply to laptops. The political agreement, reached on Tuesday after lengthy negotiations, will be formally endorsed after the summer by the European Parliament and the Council, the body representing states.

The text also paves the way for the future standardization of wireless charging technologies, which are currently in full swing.

“Consumers will no longer need different chargers and cables every time they buy a new device, they will be able to use one charger for all their small and medium sized electronic devices,” Parliament said in a statement. The text stipulates that charging speeds should be consistent across devices that allow fast charging to prevent fast charging from being limited when using another brand of charger. The labeling will be improved to better inform consumers who will be able to buy a device with or without a charger.

According to the European Commission, this regulation could allow European consumers, who spend 2.4 billion euros a year just to buy chargers, to save at least 250 million euros annually. Waste from unused stores, estimated at 11,000 tons per year, could be reduced by nearly 1,000 tons.

Innovation “strangled”?
This project was launched by the Commission in 2009, but met with resistance from the industry for a long time.

However, the number of types of existing chargers has been greatly reduced over the years. From about 30 in 2009, there were three: the Micro USB connector that has long been used in most phones, USB-C, a newer connection, and Apple’s Lightning charging technology. The California group, which claims that Lightning powers more than a billion devices worldwide, has consistently voiced its opposition, saying the EU text will “stifle innovation” and cut off the EU – subject to choosing “obsolete” standards – from the rest of the world. By disqualifying some chargers and smartphones in circulation, Brussels “will cause significant losses to manufacturers, reduce consumer choice and create additional e-waste,” Apple said on Tuesday.

“To put it bluntly: if Apple wants to sell its products (in Europe), we will have to abide by our rules (…) We have to think about the environment,” said Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market.

“Preparing for the Future”
“While charging systems have tethered consumers to the brand and forced us to hoard cables from our wallets and natural resources, this is a stopping point for the most recalcitrant,” MEP David Cormand (The Greens) abounds.
His colleague Geoffroy Didier (EPP, right) hails the EU’s “voluntarism” in the face of “obscene profligacy driven by the commercial interests of a few industrial groups”.

ANEC, an association that advocates for consumer rights on issues related to technology standards, welcomed the “agreement” that will “simplify the jungle of choice that has been provided to consumers so far.” ANEC has expressed regret that the initial project did not deal with wireless charging systems, but the final agreement includes provisions to define a common standard in this niche, which will become predominant in the next few years.

The adopted text “prepares the future (…) in order not to legislate on a technology that is already disappearing”, assured text rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Social Democrats) MEP. Thus, as wireless technology spreads, the Commission will be empowered to develop “delegated acts on the interoperability of charging solutions”, i.e. rules that can be applied directly, without a vote in the Council or the European Parliament.

An end to incompatible chargers cluttering drawers? Under an agreement reached on Tuesday between member states and MEPs, the EU will introduce a universal wired charger for smartphones, tablets, consoles and digital cameras from 2024, to the chagrin of Apple, which opposed it.
By autumn 2024, a series of devices with cable charging – mobile phones,…

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