EU threatens new legislation on universal mobile chargers

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Mobile phone companies have until the end of April to voluntarily standardise chargers or face new legislation to allow consumers to use the same charging device should they swap phones, the European Commission said yesterday (25 March).

“We are speaking with the industry about a voluntary industry agreement which we think is the quickest solution,” a spokesman for EU Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen told Reuters.

More than 500 million mobile phones are in use in the EU, and thus there are as many chargers, of which there are currently over 30 different types. Consumers thus have to replace chargers when they change phones.

The consumer is further penalised when phone manufacturers modify connectors with each new model for no apparent technical reason. 

This issue was raised by Italian Liberal MEP Marco Cappato (ALDE) in a written question to the Commission on 27 October 2008. “This lack of interoperability, as well as being inconvenient for consumers, also has obvious environmental consequences,” he wrote.

According to a study carried out between November and January 2006 by the French national consumers institute, every 20 months between 48 and 51 million phone chargers become redundant in France alone.

“If industry is not ready by the end of April, Commissioner Verheugen will propose legislation,” his spokesman said.

“This decision has to come into effect quickly to avoid further harm for the consumer and for the well-being of the environment,” Cappato said in a statement.

A small USB charger

Meanwhile, the GSM Association (GSMA), an industry lobby, is moving towards adopting a small USB charger as the standard across all models in use in the EU.

“The Universal Charging Solution (UCS) – the creation of a single, energy-efficient one-charger-fits-all new mobile phones solution – will result in a 50% reduction in standby energy consumption, elimination of 51,000 tonnes of duplicate chargers and a subsequent reduction of 13.6 million tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions each year,” declared the GSMA, which launched the initiative with 17 leading mobile operators and vendors.

Photo cameras, laptops, iPods and MP3 players

During a debate at the European Parliament on Tuesday evening, Commissioner Verheugen announced that the Commission will also push for the introduction of a standardised charger for all electronic appliances, like photo cameras, laptops, iPods and MP3 players. 

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