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EU agrees on single charger standard, hit Apple – AFR

European officials on Tuesday agreed on the text of a proposed EU law mandating a standard charger for smartphones, tablets and laptops sold in blocks, dealing a blow to Apple.

EU member states and MEPs believe a standard cable for all devices will reduce e-waste, but iPhone giant Apple argues that a universal charger would slow innovation and create more pollution.

For most portable devices, the requirement to charge via a USB Type-C port will come into effect from late 2024, negotiators said, while laptops will be given more time.

The USB-C rule will also extend to digital cameras, headphones, headsets, portable speakers and e-readers, they said.

Lawmakers agreed on the common charger on the basis of a proposal from the EU executive – the European Commission – in September, but came more than a decade after the European Parliament first pushed for it.

The decision will be formally ratified by the European Parliament and EU member states later this year before it enters into force.

“We did it in nine months, which means we can … act quickly if the political will is there,” said EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.

“We can say to the lobbies, ‘I’m sorry, but this is Europe and we work for our people,'” he said.

The 27-nation Union is home to 450 million people, some of the world’s wealthiest consumers, and the adoption of USB-C as the standard could affect the entire global market.

“It’s a rule that will apply to everyone,” said MEP Alex Agius Saliba, who led the negotiations for the European Parliament.

“If Apple … or anybody wants to market their product, want to sell their products within our single market, they have to follow our rules and their device has to be USB-C,” he said.

The rules also give buyers the option to opt out of receiving a new charging cable when purchasing an electronic device.

– ‘plan ahead’ –

And to be prepared for the future, the law has provisions to set a standard for wireless charging.

This “shouldn’t lead to legislation on a technology that’s basically dying out, so we’re planning ahead too,” Saliba said.

Apple, which already uses USB-C ports on some of its iPads and laptops, has insisted that any legislation enforcing a universal charger for all cellphones in the European Union is unjustified.

“The proposal is disproportionate to any perceived problem,” the company said in its response to the commission when the law was being drafted.

Introducing a standard for chargers would stifle innovation and “reduce European consumer choice by removing more affordable older models from the market”.

Consumers currently have to choose between phones powered by three main chargers: “Lightning” for Apple phones, the micro-USB widely used in most other cell phones, and the newer USB-C, which is being used more and more.

This range has been greatly simplified since 2009, when dozens of different types of chargers were bundled with mobile phones, creating piles of e-waste as users switched brands.

When presenting its proposal last year, the EU said the current situation remains wasteful, with European consumers spending around €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) a year on standalone chargers that they bought separately.

The European Commission had long defended a voluntary agreement with the device industry that came into effect in 2009 and called for a large reduction in cables, but Apple refused to comply.

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