EU unveils law for common phone charger in blow for Apple
European Commission says move will slash electrical waste
The European Union on Thursday unveiled plans to make USB-C connectors the standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices, in a move that will hit iPhone maker Apple.
More than 10 years in the making, the initiative is designed to slash of tonnes of environmental waste and provide €250m in annual savings for users, according to EU officials.
Under the commission's proposal, a USB-C connector will become the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles. Chargers would also be sold separately from electronic devices.
European Commission officials denied Apple, which has its own “lightning” connector, was not being targeted, adding that it only acted because companies were not able to agree on a common fix. After a decade of talks, the number of mobile phone chargers has been cut to three from 30.
"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," said European Commission vice-president Margrethe Vestager.
Apple already produces tablets and laptops that use USB-C connections, but still claims the move will stifle innovation and “harm consumers in Europe and around the world".
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said a common charging port would increase convenience and reduce waste.
“Every time we try to put a proposal, such companies start to say, ‘It will be against innovation’,” he told a news conference. “It’s not at all against innovation, it’s not against anyone. It’s for European consumers.”
The commission estimates mobile phone chargers are estimated to be responsible for 11,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year across the bloc.
Half the chargers sold with mobile phones in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector, while 29% had a USB-C connector and 21% a Lightning connector, according to a 2019 commission study.
The proposal needs approval from EU member states and the European parliament after which companies will have two years to adapt their devices.