Phones, consoles … Why it took the EU more than ten years to introduce a universal charger

The end of incompatible chargers that can not be disassembled and cluttered drawers come closer. Under the agreement reached on Tuesday, June 7, between member states and MEPs, the EU will from 2024 introduce a universal wired charger for smartphones, tablets, consoles and digital cameras to the regret of Apple, which was against it. .

By the fall of 2024, a range of cable rechargeable devices – mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, portable video game consoles, portable speakers … – must be equipped with a USB-C port to be sold in the EU, regardless of manufacturer. Laptops will be subject to the same single charger requirement in the spring of 2026. The political agreement reached on Tuesday, after lengthy negotiations, will be formally approved after the summer of 2022 by the European Parliament and the Council, a body representing the states.

Savings for users and the planet

The text also paves the way for future standardization of wireless charging technologies, which are currently in full swing. “Consumers will no longer need a different charger and cable every time they buy a new device, they will be able to use a charger for all their small and medium-sized electronic devices,” eliminating unnecessary accessories, says Parliament.

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The text stipulates that the charging speed is harmonized for devices that approve fast charging, in order to prevent it from being limited by the use of a charger of another brand. The labeling will be improved to better inform consumers who will be able to buy a device with or without a charger.

This regulation could save European consumers – who spend € 2.4 billion a year on charging chargers alone – at least € 250 million a year, according to the European Commission. Waste from unused magazines, estimated at 11,000 tonnes per year, can be reduced by almost 1,000 tonnes.

Apple lobbying

This project was launched in 2009 by the Commission, but for a long time it met with opposition from industry. For thirteen years, the European Union failed to enact this legislation in light of the reluctance of the California company founded by Steve Jobs. And as the Swiss daily points out TimeApple would have already planned to choose a standard charger from 2023 anyway, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, quoted by the Bloomberg agency.

The Apple brand has actually put a lot of energy into lobbying to keep its special chargers that no other manufacturer offers on its devices. The California multinational has always refused any regulation in the field of chargers that prefers to switch, without restrictions, from the 30-pin plug to the Lightning plug introduced in 2012 “, specifies the Swiss daily newspaper.

To assert its opposition, Apple has long considered that the European text will “stifle innovation” and cut off the EU – subject to a range of “outdated” standards – from the rest of the world. By disqualifying some of the chargers and smartphones in circulation, Brussels will “impose significant losses on manufacturers, reduce consumer choice and generate additional electronic waste,” Apple insisted on Tuesday. The losses will also relate to the company itself, which has been able to generate hundreds of millions of dollars through the sale of its own charging cables.

However, the number of types of existing chargers has been greatly reduced over the years. From around thirty in 2009, they have gone to three: the Micro USB connector, which has long been mounted on most phones, USB-C, a newer connection and Apple’s Lightning charging technology. “Let’s be clear: if Apple wants to market its products (in Europe), we need to respect our rules (…) We need to think about the environment,” replied Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.

The wireless technology involved

“While charging systems limited consumers to a brand and forced us to accumulate cables at the expense of our wallets and natural resources, this is a stopping point for the most stubborn,” says environmentalist David Corband. His colleague Geoffroy Didier (EPP, right) praises the EU’s “voluntariness” in the face of “indecent waste dictated by the commercial interests of a few industry groups”.

The association ANEC, which defends consumers’ rights in matters related to technological standards, welcomed “an agreement” which “simplifies the jungle of opportunities presented to consumers so far”. ANEC had regretted that the initial project did not concern wireless charging systems, but the final agreement provides for the establishment of a common standard in this niche, which is becoming the majority in the next few years.

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The adopted text “prepares the future (…) not to pass legislation on a technology that is already disappearing”, assured MEP Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Social Democrats), rapporteur for the text. . As wireless technology spreads, the Commission will thus be empowered to draw up “delegated acts on the interoperability of charging solutions”, ie. regulations that can be applied directly without being voted on by the Council or the European Parliament.


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