Consumers welcome EC move to introduce standard phone charger

All electronic devices will have to be built to accept a USB-C charger by 2024

The Commission believes the measure will drastically cut the amount of e-waste produced in the EU annually and ease the lives of consumers. Photograph: EPA

The Commission believes the measure will drastically cut the amount of e-waste produced in the EU annually and ease the lives of consumers. Photograph: EPA

 

The decision by the European Commission to seek to force manufacturers to adopt one standard charger for electronic devices has been welcomed as an “enormously positive” step by consumer groups.

All smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles would have to be built to accept a USB-C charger under the plans, which would be implemented by mid-2024, despite resistance from the tech industry.

Dermott Jewell, policy advisor at the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, said the policy was one that had been “fought for years for”.

He said the development was “enormously positive,” adding the weight of the commission backing the proposal was significant.

“We had always expected that there would be pushback from business”, because it was not in their interests to have a standard charger across the market, he said.

“The consumer deserves to have a one size fits all charger,” which would make life simpler, he said.

The EC move, which it believes will drastically cut the amount of e-waste produced in the EU annually and ease the lives of consumers, has met with resistance from digital giants including Apple, which would be among the most affected manufacturers. It has protested that the measure would curb innovation.

The European Commissioner for Internal Markets, Thierry Breton, dismissed such objections.

“I know these companies for years and years. Every time we try to put a proposal, because it’s our job, they start to say ‘it will be against innovation... ‘it’s not what I want to do, so it’s against innovation’,” he told journalists.

“It’s for the consumers. It’s nothing against innovation, it’s just to make the lives of our fellow citizens a little bit more easy.”

Under the plans, fast charging software would also have to be standardised across devices so that chargers would be interoperable.

In addition, retailers would have to give customers the option of buying a device without a charger, under rules that would end the practice of automatically including the charger in the box.

The rules would not cover wireless charging but could be extended to this later depending on technological developments. It could also be extended to cover a range of additional devices.

Having a standard charger will make it easier to switch between brands, the commission believes.

It has been working towards standardising chargers on a voluntary basis for a decade, and credits its work so far with reducing the variety of chargers to three.

The proposal will now need the support of EU governments and the European Parliament, and will be introduced with a 24-month phase-in period to allow the industry to adapt.

Some 420 million phones and other portable electronic devices were sold in the EU last year, and disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to account for 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, according to the European Commission.