EU to propose legislation on common mobile charger in September

The European Commission will look into whether it should regulate mobile phone chargers. [Shutterstock]

The European Commission will next month present legislation to establish a common charger for mobile phones and other electronic devices within the 27-nation bloc, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday (12 August).

The European Commission, which acts as the executive for the EU, has been pushing for a common charger for mobile phones more than a decade. The initiative comes from Solomon Passy and his wife Gergana Passy, Bulgarian politicians and active citizens. It has been taken on board by Günter Verheugen in his former capacity of Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry (2004- 2010). The result has been partially successful.

The move will affect iPhone maker Apple more than its rivals. IPhones and most of Apple’s products are powered by its Lightning cable, whereas Android devices are powered by USB-C connectors.

Half of chargers sold with mobile phones in the European Union in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector while 29% had a USB C connector and 21% a Lightning connector, a Commission impact assessment study in 2019 found.

The EU executive is currently drafting the legislation, the source said, without giving further details. Lawmakers at the European Parliament last year voted overwhelmingly in favour of a common charger, citing environmental benefits and convenience to users.

Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia signed a voluntary memorandum of understanding to harmonize chargers for new models of smartphones coming into the market in 2011 which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of different chargers and a convergence of the market to USB 2.0 micro-B connections.

The industry and the Commission subsequently tried to reach a final resolution on the issue in 2018 but failed.

Apple has warned that the EU push for a common charger would hurt innovation and create a mountain of electronic waste if consumers were forced to switch to new chargers.

Apple pushes back against EU common charger, warns of innovation risks

iPhone maker Apple on Thursday (23 January) pushed back against EU lawmakers’ call for a common charger, warning the move could hamper innovation, create a mountain of electronic waste and irk consumers.

It also said the legislation was unnecessary as the industry moves to USB-C through a connector or cable assembly.

The Commission’s 2019 study suggested five options for a common charger, three of which concerned the connectors at the device end and the other two the external power supply.

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