This could be the culmination more than a decade of mobilization around the universal charger. MEPs on Wednesday adopted amendments and a common position on the revision of the radio equipment directive. This parliamentary vote paves the way for a single connection for all electronic devices sold in Europe including smartphones of all brands.
“500 million chargers are shipped each year in Europe and generate between 11,000 and 13,000 tonnes of electronic waste. A single charger will act in favor of the environment, encourage the reuse of old electronic products, save money and reduce unnecessary costs”, explains the rapporteur of the amendment, Maltese MP Alex Agius Saliba . The latter even evokes a “historic moment for the European consumer who will pay less for a charger that he does not always need”.
Announced by the European Commission last autumn, the draft European directive initiates a decisive shift in legislative policy on the Old Continent. Gone are the days of gentle, non-binding pressure, Europe wants to impose tablets, laptops or smartphones with only a USB-C port with a charger that can be used regardless of the brand of the device. What most recent device manufacturers already offer… with the exception of Apple and its Lightning port on the iPhone.
“It’s not against a particular market player but to have a common standard”, tries to demine a source in the European Parliament. The text about to be adopted aims to push the Apple brand towards this popular charging and data transfer technology on Android smartphones. Apple has already been halfway there for three years by converting its iPads to the USB-C port and removing the power plugs from the packaging of its latest iPhones since 2020.
However, the path seems long until the Lightning port disappears completely, a significant source of income for the Californian firm, which requests a contribution from all accessory manufacturers to produce compatible cables or power supplies.
The European Parliament will meet in plenary within two weeks to adopt formally a text already approved almost unanimously in committee. Negotiations will then begin with the Member States and the European Commission in order to agree on a final version by the summer. The law will then be transposed into the countries’ national law, a legal process that can take from 6 months to two years. Finally, manufacturers will have 6 months to comply. The mid-2024 horizon seems the most achievable.
Last November, Apple defended itself by opposing the European legislator’s proposal that the disappearance of its proprietary charging method “will reduce the options of the European consumer by depriving them of the possibility of buying an older and more affordable model. and will increase the ecological waste by triggering the withdrawal from the market of cables and accessories that already exist”. More than a billion smartphones and accessories have a Lightning port. During the renewal cycle of a smartphone, currently three years, it will at least be necessary to plan to market adapters.
The text also proposes that the customer has the choice of buying a device without a charging block or cable. To this end, the legislation provides for the creation of a clearly visible symbol on the packaging to guide the purchase according to the contents of the box.