European Parliament Backs Universal Smartphone Charger

The European Parliament has given its formal support for a universal charger for smartphones, tablets and other portable electronics.

MEPs voted overwhelmingly for the proposal, which was included in a new radio equipment directive, which they say will make it easier for European citizens to use their mobile devices, while reducing the amount of electronic waste caused by unnecessary and unused chargers.

“I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger,” said German MEP Barbara Weiler. “This serves the interests both of consumers and the environment. It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually.”

Universal smartphone charger

The majority of smartphones and tablets are powered by a MicroUSB cable, but others, most notably Apple with its Lightning (pictured left), use proprietary connections that necessitate the use and purchase of additional equipment. If the directive is approved by the EU council of ministers, the Cupertino-based company will be forced to comply with the universal standard.

Apple had not responded to TechWeekEurope’s request for comment at the time of publication.

The creation of a universal charger has been discussed in the corridors of the EU for some time, with all 35 members of the EU’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee lending their support last October.

The majority of smartphone manufacturers already support such a proposal, with the MicroUSB standard adopted by the EU back in 2010.

E-waste reduction

Operator O2 estimates there are 100 million unnecessary chargers in the UK, amounting to 18,700 tonnes of components, 124,274 miles of copper wire and plastic covering and the volume of landfill required if they were thrown away would be enough to fill four Olympic swimming pools.

It has launched the ‘chargers out of the box’ programme which has seen it ship a number of smartphones without a charger, claiming the majority of users already have the required equipment. Users can still purchase a charger separately from O2 at a discounted price, but the operator says 82 percent have decided the provided USB cable is all they need.

Last December, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a non-profit body that develops standards for electronic devices, finished working on a technical specification for a universal laptop charger for use worldwide.

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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