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EU Proposes Universal Charger—A Blow To Apple

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 23, 2021

Topline

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, announced a new plan on Thursday that would establish the USB-C charger as the standard throughout its two dozen-plus member states for smartphones, tablets and other devices—a move Apple, which uses a separate “Lightning” charging system for its iPhones, has long opposed.

Key Facts

The revision of the existing Radio Equipment Directive is intended to reduce waste and increase ease for consumers, according to a press release shared on Thursday.

In addition to establishing a “harmonised charging port” the proposed legislation would unbundle the sale of electronic devices and chargers to reduce the number of “unwanted” or “unused” chargers.

The move will affect smartphones, tablets, headphones, cameras, speakers and video game devices.

According to a fact sheet provided by the Commission, the new rule would reduce e-waste “by almost a thousand tonnes annually.”

Key Background

The movement to adopt a common charger in Europe has been a long time coming. The number of different mobile phone chargers on the market has been whittled down from 30 to three (including the USB micro-B) since 2009, when the Commission “facilitated a voluntary agreement by the industry.” Thursday’s news is the final step toward adopting a single, universal charger. “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger,” Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said in the announcement.

Chief Critic

For years Apple has remained a stubborn holdout, refusing to get rid of its unique iPhone charger. “Apple stands for innovation,” they wrote in a 2019 feedback form opposing the initiative. “Regulations that would drive conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones freeze innovation rather than encourage it. Such proposals are bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers.” They put out a similar statement in the wake of Thursday’s announcement: “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.”

What To Watch For

The next step for the Commission’s proposal would be adoption by the European Parliament and Council, plus a two year “transition period” that would “give industry ample time to adapt before the entry into application,” according to the press release.

Further Reading

EU Seeks Common Charger for All Phones, Hurting Apple” (New York Times)

EU plans one mobile charging port for all, in setback for Apple” (Reuters)

EU rules to force USB-C chargers for all phones” (BBC News)

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