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4th Dec 2021

MEPs urge binding rules for common chargers by July

  • Most phones sold today use micro-USB plugs for charging, but not Apple's devices (Photo: theilr)

MEPs have called for the mandatory introduction of common chargers for all mobile devices by July, urging immediate EU regulatory action in a bid to reduce electronic waste and help consumers to make sustainable choices.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament passed on Thursday (30 January) a resolution calling on the EU Commission to ensure a legislative framework for common chargers for mobile phones, enabling users to easily re-use old devices. The text was approved by 582 votes to 40, with 37 abstentions.

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"The present oversupply of chargers (...) causes excessive costs and inconvenience to consumers and an unnecessary environmental footprint", the text said.

More than a decade ago, when there were more than 30 different types of chargers in the market, the European Union urged phone producers to agree on a common standard for smartphone chargers. Most - but not all - of them did. And today there are only three charger types.

However, chargers have been estimated to produce more than 51,000 metric tons of e-waste per year in the EU, where the total e-waste generated in 2016 was 12.3 million metric tonnes - which is equivalent to 16.6 kg on average per inhabitant.

Meanwhile, only 35 percent of electronic waste was properly recycled in 2012.

"The commission has to show leadership and stop letting tech giants dictate our standards. We expect a proposal to establish a standard common charger for smartphones, digital cameras, e-book readers and tablets and similar devices within the next six months," said Polish MEP Roza Thun from the European People's Party (EPP).

Additionally, MEPs called on the commission to ensure that consumers are no longer obliged to buy new chargers with each new device, calling for decoupling strategies that should avoid potentially higher prices for consumers.

Likewise, the EU parliament wants to guarantee the interoperability of different wireless chargers with different mobile devices, as well as new legislative initiatives to increase the volume of cables and chargers collected and recycled in member states.

"Many mobile telephones already use wireless charging methods and that fragmentation in this area should be avoided," the text says.

However, the decision has not been well-received by Apple - a company that has been lobbying against this decision - since it will affect the company more than others as their smartphones are powered by its special lightning cable, rather than standard USB-C connectors used by Android mobile phones.

"Regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole," said Apple in a statement earlier this week.

Investigation

How Apple lobbied EU to delay common smartphone charger

iPhones and Android products don't use the same charger. This is annoying for consumers and harmful for the environment. Old chargers produce more than 51,000 tons of electronic waste per year.

Investigation

MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay

Citing an EUobserver investigation, MEPs on the consumer protection committee have slammed the EU Commission for allowing Apple to get away with refusing to comply with a common smartphone charger for over a decade.

MEPs push for limited 'right-to-repair' on consumer devices

The MEPs's report asked the EU Commission to "consider" labelling products and services according to their durability and estimated lifespan - but only to examine so-called "planned obsolescence." The parliament plenary will vote in November.

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