Universal smartphone charger becomes mandatory in the EU

The European Parliament on Tuesday dealt the final blow to the mess of tangled chargers overflowing drawers: Within two years, smartphones, tablets and other small electronics sold in the European Union (EU) must all have the same charger.

Following this referendum by MEPs in Strasbourg, the USB-C port should become the only charger for portable electronic devices sold in the EU by autumn 2024.

This ground-breaking legislation in the world is becoming a reality to the chagrin of Apple, which in June criticized a text that it accused of stifling innovation and cutting off the EU -subject to a selection of “outdated” standards- from the rest of the world.

“It’s a great day for consumers, a great day for our environment”, rejoiced in the semi-circle of the European Parliament, the Maltese Labor Member of Parliament Alex Agius Saliba, rapporteur of the text which was voted by 602 votes (13 votes against, 8 neither for nor against).

“This is the past! “, he had launched during a debate a few hours earlier, brandishing a jumble of heterogeneous chargers, such as are found in the drawers of most Europeans.

This obligation will apply to mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, wireless headphones, portable video game consoles, GPS devices, computer keyboards and mice, and portable speakers. And this, regardless of their manufacturer.

Laptops will also be affected in the first half of 2026.

“The example of the EU”

“I am convinced that many countries will follow the EU’s example. We will be the leader, Bulgarian Andrey Kovachev of the main political group EPP (right) said on Tuesday.

While there were still around thirty different models around ten years ago, the number of types of existing chargers for new electronic devices has already gradually been greatly reduced.

They are now three in number: the Micro USB connector that has long equipped most phones, USB-C, a newer connection, and Apple’s Lightning charging technology.

Once the final purely procedural approval by the Council of the EU (the member states) and the publication of the law in the Official Journal of the European Union, the European countries will have two years to implement it. So in autumn 2024.

“This transition period should allow manufacturers to adapt their production chain,” explained Margrethe Vestager, Vice-President of the European Commission.

In addition, consumers will now have the choice of buying a new electronic device with or without a charger.

The text also harmonizes the fast charging technology to prevent the charging speed from being limited when using a charger from a different brand than the device.

As it becomes more and more widespread, wireless charging must also meet interoperability requirements by the end of 2024, which the European Commission must harmonize.

Environmental impact

The deployment of a single loader “will represent at least 200 million euros in savings per year for European consumers and will enable the reduction of more than one million tons of waste each year”, stressed Ms Vestager.

According to European institutions, discarded or unused chargers currently make up around 11,000 tons of electronic waste per year.

But “it is the very small part that is visible in the iceberg of the environmental impact of digital technology”, noted the French environmentalist, MEP David Cormand, referring to “planned obsolescence” or the low “durability” and “repairability” of electronic units.

“The cable (from the charger) must not be there to hide the forest of the ecological disaster that digital represents”, he criticized.

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