European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton announcing the 'common charger' legislation.
    • The European Union hopes to set USB-C as the standard power port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.
    • It says the move will reduce the 11,000 tons of e-waste every year resulting from unused chargers - and it will save consumers €250 million on unnecessary charger purchases.
    • Apple is concerned that strict regulations mandating just one type of connector would stifle innovation rather than encourage it.
    • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

    The days of having a draw full of obsolete cellphone power cables are numbered. That’s if the European Union (EU) Commission has its way.

    The commission, which is the executive branch of the EU, is putting forward legislation that will set USB-C as the only standard power port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.

    In other words, there will be a single cable to power them all.

    The idea behind having USB-C as the standard power port for all devices is to reduce the e-waste – the discarding of electronic devices - that comes with having incompatible chargers.

    Given the size of the EU consumer electronics market, which is expected to reach $68,1 billion in 2021, the tech industry has little choice when it comes to apposing such a move. The new standard will be far-reaching, as given the EU's clout it will become the de facto standard for the world.

    While the commission has lofty goals, like reducing the 11,000 tons of e-waste every year resulting from unused chargers and saving consumers €250 million on unnecessary charger purchases, it also understands the desire of many Europeans to just reduce the amount of clutter in their lives.

    “European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers,” said executive vice-president for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager.

    Though the tech industry had made voluntary efforts to cut the number of mobile phone chargers from 30 to three within the last decade, the commission was not prepared to wait any longer for the industry to come up with its own standard.

    “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.”

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    Source: EU

    Waited long enough

    The commission facilitated a voluntary agreement by the industry to set a new standard back in 2009. This resulted in the adoption of the first Memorandum of Understanding and led to reducing the number of existing charging solutions for mobile phones on the market from 30 to three.

    When this memorandum expired in 2014, a proposal presented to by the industry in March 2018 was not considered satisfactory when it came to “delivering a common charging solution or meeting the need for improved consumer convenience and e-waste reduction.”

    So, seven years after the memorandum expired, and waiting for the industry to come up with its own solution, the commission decided to impose one on it.

    Apple resists

    Although most leading manufactures like Samsung and Huawei have already transitioned to the new standard, there is one notable holdout when it comes to adopting it – Apple.

    The US-based tech giant is reluctant to give up on its inhouse Lightening Cable.

    It told the BBC that: “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.”

    Apple, however, won’t be refitting its factories just yet as the move to the new standard will be anything but quick. The commission’s proposal will first have “to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council by ordinary legislative procedure”.

    Once this is done, there will be a 24-month “transition period” from the date of adoption, to give the industry time to move to the new standard.

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