MEPs Back Single Charger For Smartphones

The European Parliament is calling for regulations standardising mobile phone chargers on a single method to be introduced by July.

The move follows MEPs’ approval on Thursday of a resolution in favour of standardisation  – something Apple had argued against.

The resolution, which passed by 582 votes to 40, with 37 abstentions, calls on the European Commission to introduce a legislative framework for common mobile phone chargers, something MEPs said would reduce electronic waste.

The European Parliament first called on manufacturers to agree on a common standard more than a decade ago, at a time when more than 30 different types of chargers were on the market.


Multiple standards

There are currently three standards in active use – USB-C, the older Micro USB and Apple’s Lightning.

Nevertheless, chargers alone are estimated to produce more than 51,000 metric tonnes of e-waste in the EU every year.

“The present oversupply of chargers… causes excessive costs and inconvenience to consumers and an unnecessary environmental footprint”, the resoltion said.

“The commission has to show leadership and stop letting tech giants dictate our standards,” said Polish MEP Roza Thun.

“We expect a proposal to establish a standard common charger for smartphones, digital cameras, e-book readers and tablets and similar devices within the next six months.”

Innovation

Apple has argued such regulations would “stifle innovation”.

“Regulations that would drive conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones freeze innovation rather than encourage it,” the company said in response to the new resolution’s passage.

“Such proposals are bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers.

“We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide.”

The company noted that more than one billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector.

MEPs also called on the Commission to ensure consumers are no longer obliged to buy new chargers with each device, and to do so in a way that would avoid potentially higher prices for consumers.

Wireless charging

The European Parliament’s text also asks the Commission to ensure the interoperability of different wireless charging standards and to bring in legislation to increase the volume of cables and chargers collected and recycled in member states.

“Many mobile telephones already use wireless charging methods and that fragmentation in this area should be avoided,” the resolution says.

The EU Parliament’s move increases pressure on phone manufacturers to reach common charging standards – an area that is more fragmented than it would appear.

Cables from different manufacturers supporting the same standard are notorious for presenting different charging and data-transfer speeds.

And even within USB-C, phone makers support multiple, incompatible standards for technologies such as fast charging, meaning that switching to a different, identical-looking cable can result in a loss of features.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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