The European Union announced Thursday that it will impose a universal charger for smartphones, creating a showdown with Apple and its widely used iPhone.
The European Commission believes that a standard cable for all devices will reduce e-waste, but Apple argues that a one-size-fits-all charger would slow down innovation and lead to more pollution.
The bloc is home to 450 million people, some of the richest consumers in the world, and the imposition of USB-C as a cable standard, once approved by member states and the European Parliament, would affect the entire global phone market. smart.
“European consumers have been frustrated for quite some time by the accumulation of incompatible chargers in their drawers,” EU Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
“We gave the industry a lot of time to come up with their own solutions, now the time has come for legislative action for a common charger,” he said.
Consumers currently have to decide between phones with three main chargers: “Lightning” for Apple phones, the widely used micro-USB in most other mobile phones, and the newer USB-C that is being used more and more.
That range has already been greatly simplified since 2009, when dozens of different types of chargers were paired with mobile phones, creating piles of e-waste as users switched brands.
‘Inconvenient’ and wasteful
The EU said the current situation remains “inconvenient” with European consumers spending about 2.4 billion euros ($ 2.8 billion) a year on independent chargers they bought separately.
Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner, also rejected the industry’s argument that innovation would suffer.
He told reporters that the American tech giants “are always making this argument, that (EU law) is against innovation … It is not against innovation. It is for European consumers, not against anyone. “.
Apple, which already uses USB-C connectors in some of its iPads and laptops, insists that legislation to force a universal charger for all mobile phones in the European Union is unjustified.
“We remain concerned that strict regulation requiring only one type of connector stifles rather than encourages innovation, which in turn will hurt consumers in Europe and around the world,” Apple said.
‘Enough time’ to change
Some in the industry argue that phones already in use with a legacy charging cable will lose their resale value if it cannot be replaced, and will increase excess digital waste.
The European Commission had long championed a voluntary agreement it made with the device industry that was established in 2009 and saw a big reduction in cables, but Apple refused to abide by it.
In the commission’s proposal, which could still be modified considerably before ratification, smartphone makers will be given a 24-month transition period, which will allow “enough time” for companies to align themselves, the commission said.
Apple said it believed the two-year transition period was a concern for the industry and too short to prevent the sale of existing equipment.
EU consumer group ANEC cautiously welcomed the proposal, but urged that the plan be extended to wireless charging systems, which are increasingly being adopted by phone makers.
“Therefore, it is important to avoid any fragmentation in this area as well,” the group said.