The EU to study imposing a common USB mobile phone charger

Last February, we reported that the EU was beginning to consider using the power it received in 2014 to force phone manufacturers to use a common charger for every phone sold in Europe. Now, EU regulators have announced they are studying forcing manufacturers to do just that.

USB Type-C, microUSB, and Lightning: the EU says “no more division”

Phones we can buy on stores currently come with one of three different connectors: USB Type-C, microUSB, and Apple’s Lightning. Despite the fact that the market should be moving towards embracing USB Type-C entirely, brands like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and Nokia keep releasing phones with microUSB in 2018. As for Apple, it refuses to give up its proprietary connector.

According to Margrethe Vestager, EU regulators will study whether they have to force manufacturers to launch a common phone charger given that manufacturers do not seem to be making that decision on their own. The European Commission has been pushing for a common charger for nearly a decade. It has been partially done with microUSB as opposed to USB Type-C, which is yet to be fully featured on every phone range despite being available for three years.

In fact, Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia signed a voluntary memorandum in 2009, agreeing to harmonize chargers for new models coming in 2011. Some of the companies subsequently signed letters of intent in 2013 and 2014 after the memorandum expired in 2012, although it was not necessary anymore because the goal of using the same connector was met: microUSB was chosen after years of different proprietary connectors.

Apple would be forced to use the connector chosen by the EU

However, the EU has stated it is not happy with the way manufacturers are handling the situation, so the Commission will launch an impact assessment study to evaluate the costs and benefits of the different options that are currently available. Thanks to this type of studies, the European Commission has a good basis to take legal actions across Europe. Elzbieta Bienkowska, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, is leading the whole process.

51,000 tons of electronic waste are currently being generated yearly from old chargers. We have to add the inconvenience to consumers, as they have to have to find a cable that is compatible with their phones if they run out of battery.

The next logical step is for manufacturers to start using USB Type-C. Even Apple would be forced to use USB Type-C on its phones like it already does on its laptops. In case the brand fails to comply, it would be forced to pay a multi-million-dollar fine.