Parliament backs universal mobile phone chargers


All mobile phones on the European market will soon have to use a standard charger after the European Parliament voted on a directive on Thursday (13 March).

Mobile phone and smartphone producers such as Samsung, Apple and Nokia will have to offer their European customers a standardised charger model by 2017.

The MEPs decided on new rules at their plenary session in Strasbourg, on Thursday. The directive passed with 550 votes in favour, with 12 against and 8 abstentions.

Barbara Weiler, a German socialist MEP and rapporteur on the dossier, said in a statement: “I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger. It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually.”

"The current incompatibility of chargers for mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, digital cameras, music players is a nightmare and a real inconvenience for consumers. This new directive ends this nightmare and is also good news for the environment.”

European consumers have become familiar for years now with the ever-changing formats for chargers, which often differ between brands but also between models of mobile phones, tablets and other devices.

Many of the mobile phones on the market already follow the standard micro-USB format, but smartphone giants Apple and Nokia will now have to adapt their models to this standard too. Parliament clarified in a press release that the European Commission would determine which specific devices were to fall under the new rules.

Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani, in charge of the initial directive, said the decision on introducing a common charger “is very good news for our citizens and for the environment” and that the directive will give a boost to the “essential” European communications market.

The EU Parliament also adopted new rules on how telecom and other devices interact with one another. It hopes to avoid interference of devices that make use of radio spectrums, for example car-door openers or radios.

Lawmakers in EU member states will have stronger instruments to check whether new products comply with the rules and, for instance, do not interfere with other products already on the market. The EU is set to introduce a pan-European list of goods on the market, which is hoped will make it easier to check this information.

The directive still has to pass a vote in the EU Council of Ministers but was agreed in trilogue negotiations, earlier. After Council approves the rules, EU member states will have two years to implement them and manufacturers have another year to comply.

More than 500 million mobile phones are in use in the EU, using 30 different types of chargers.

When consumers change phones they are left with fully-functional but useless chargers, which in the end becomes electronic waste.

To reduce the number of chargers that are sold unnecessarily and the associated generation of electronic waste, the European Commission pressured Europe's leading mobile phone manufacturers to agree in June 2009 to adopt a universal charger for handsets sold in the EU from 2010.

In December 2009 the Commission issued European standardisation organisations CEN-CENELEC and ETSI with a mandate to develop European standards for a common charger.

Mobile telecoms operators, represented by the GSM Association (GSMA), had previously committed to adopting a universal charger by 2012.

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