With today’s announcement, EU lawmakers are finally ready to standardise charging ports for consumer electronics like smartphones and tablets. Once adopted, the region will settle on USB-C as a universal charging port for gadgets like cameras, headphones, portable speakers, and handheld videogame consoles.
Smart watches and fitness bands are being banned because of their tiny size and the circumstances under which they are used.
A component that is not included in the box will be sold separately by regional legislators, in accordance with the Commission’s proposal.
The plan also calls for standardising fast charging, while requiring device manufacturers to give consumers with “relevant information regarding charging capabilities,” such as the amount of power needed and whether or not the device supports fast charging.
“This will make it easier for consumers to see if their existing chargers meet the requirements of their new device or help them select a compatible charger,” the Commission notes, going on to suggest that the full package of measures will help consumers limit the number of new chargers they buy and help them save €250 million a year on unnecessary charger acquisitions.
There are still three distinct kinds of mobile phone chargers on the market, despite years of efforts by the Commission to get the industry to adopt the same standard via procedures like Memorandums of Understanding, according to its announcement of the new proposal.
A more general goal is to make a significant dent in the global e-waste mountain by reducing a portion generated by the consumer electronics sector — with the European Commission noting for example, that consumers already own on average three mobile phone chargers and use two of those chargers regularly. As a result, there is no need for gadget manufacturers to include a new charger in each and every package.
The European Commission estimates that discarded chargers account for 11,000 metric tonnes of e-waste per year.
An EU-wide rule requiring all mobile devices to use a common charger might compel Apple to eventually ditch its proprietary Lightning connector, which the company has been resisting.
Instead of using more common connectors on its devices, Apple has long ruled over a huge and undoubtedly profitable accessories sector. In other cases, it’s gone so far as to eliminate conventional connectors like the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone. Apple’s products often need the purchase of dongles if customers want access to more standard ports, resulting in further e-waste generation in the future.
There’s no guarantee that the European Union’s proposed legislation would restrict Apple’s dongle-based solution to integrated universality. (The Commission has been asked to look into this.)
A statement from Margrethe Vestager, the Commission’s executive vice president for digital strategy, was released in response to the Commission’s proposal. Since we gave the business plenty of time to come up with its own solutions, lawmakers should now move to establish a standard charging rate for all devices. This is a significant victory for our customers and the environment, and it aligns with our green and digital goals.”
Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton added: “Charging devices power all our most critical electronic gadgets. More and more chargers are being marketed that are not interchangeable or essential as the number of devices grows. That’s no longer an option. Using a single charger for all of one’s portable electronic devices is a major step toward reducing waste and increasing convenience.
There will still be a need for support from the EU’s other institutions—the European Parliament and the Council—before the plan can be become law. In spite of the European Parliament’s longstanding displeasure with the Commission’s inability to provide an EU-wide billing standard, MEPs are likely to be eager to make this happen.
Even so, there won’t be a dramatic shift in a short period of time. This transition time of 24 months has been recommended, so even if Parliament and Council immediately agree to the legal plan, it would still be years before device producers have to comply.
Despite the fact that the industry has been under pressure to make the necessary changes for over a decade, the Commission’s PR says it wants to give it “ample time” to do so.
More standardisation of the external power supply is essential to assure interoperability, so that Europe can acquire the universal charger solution the Commission seeks. A review of the Ecodesign Regulation is expected to be initiated later this year, with the goal of bringing it into effect at the same time as a standard charging port requirement.
Asked about why it’s taken so long for the Commission to adopt a more “ambitious” voluntary approach to this problem, the Commission said in a FAQ on the later plan that it had hoped that the industry would participate. However, the industry’s plans “fell short” and would not have provided an unified billing mechanism, according to the report.
Learning that legislators must legislate seems to be a crucial lesson at a time when the world is preparing to face other existential environmental concerns, such as climate change and microplastics pollution.