09/06/2022

EU's Regulation Mandates a Single Universal Charger by 2024

At the moment, any manufacturer is free to use different charging solutions for wired charging which makes it necessary to have individual charging cable for every gadget in consumer’s possession. However, this is going to change after 2024 under EU's regulation on mandatory universal chargers.

What has EU Commission proposed in the deal on universal chargers?

The EU’s plan to introduce a universal charger for portable electronics was first announced in September 2021 which follows on an agreement from 2009 to reduce existing number of charger types from 30 to only 3. The new law that the EU is putting forward will make it obligatory for a range of small electronics to have the same USB-C charging port for wired charging.

Manufacturers have time until autumn 2024 to comply with the new rule which will apply to brand new smartphones, tablets, headphones and headsets, cameras, e-books, speakers and gaming consoles being sold in the EU. Laptops will also have to follow suit, but manufacturers will have 40 months to make hardware changes after the law comes into effect.

Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager commented:

"European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”

Benefits of universal chargers

According to the statement from European Parliament, it is estimated that charger purchases cost consumers up to 250 million euro per year, whereas disposed chargers generate roughly 11 thousand tonnes of e-waste. Hence, there are many benefits of having a common charger as a requirement. It will reduce the amount of e-waste by simplifying wired charging. Less cables means less clutter, and it will be easier to find the right charger when you need to replace it, because one charger type will be compatible with a range of gadgets.

Can the EU force Apple to use USB-C?

In the world of Android, USB-C chargers are a norm, however Apple is the only tech giant that uses unique charging ports in its products. Although every new iPad is now equipped with USB-C, lighting ports are still present on iPhone 13 series and audio products made by Apple.

The iPhone maker has opposed the EU’s proposal on a common USB-C charger saying that it will harm consumers and prevent innovation. However, under the EU law on standardising USB-C charger, Apple will have no other option but to switch lightning connector to the proposed wired charger type to comply with the new regulations and continue selling its products in the EU.

Apple could argue that they are doing enough to combat e-waste with their decision to stop supplying in-box charging bricks already and developing their MagSafe technology for wireless charging. But that doesn’t solve the problem of all the different cables needed for wired charging for devices that are not equipped with MagSafe.

Moreover, in situations when an Android user moves to Apple, and vice versa, users are left with a bundle of cables that are not compatible with new hardware. This brings us to a conclusion that Apple’s position on EU’s upcoming regulation looks hypocritical in comparison to their sustainability commitments and claims.

Is UK going to adopt EU’s policy on universal chargers?

Since the UK is no longer a member of the EU, it remains to be seen whether the government will make a decision to introduce similar requirement for new devices sold to have a universal charger. Under Brexit agreements, this legislation will only apply to Northern Ireland.

Considering the UK is the second worst country in Europe in terms of e-waste generation per capita, adopting EU's legislation on universal chargers for portable electronics is a much needed step to combat growing rates of waste and meet the government's sustainability plans.

Antonia

See more posts by Antonia