USB-C to become common charging cable in the EU from 2024

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a motion to ensure all small electronic devices sold in the EU use the same charging cable by 2024.

By the end of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets, cameras and other small or medium-sized electronic devices sold in the EU will need to be equipped with the UBS-C charging port, the bloc has agreed. 

These rules are expected to be extended to laptops in 2026.  

The EU said the change would reduce hassle for consumers and help cut electronic waste by removing the need to buy a new charger each time a device is purchased. The motion was approved with 602 votes in favour and 13 against, with eight abstaining.

“The common charger will finally become a reality in Europe,” European Parliament rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said. “We have waited more than 10 years for these rules but we can finally leave the current plethora of chargers in the past.

“This future-proof law allows for the development of innovative charging solutions in the future and it will benefit everyone – from frustrated consumers to our vulnerable environment.”

Under the new rules, consumers will be able to use a single charger to power all their small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. Buyers will also be able to choose whether they want to purchase new electronic equipment with or without a charger.

The deadline will apply to smartphones, as well as tablets, digital cameras, headphones, handheld video game consoles and e-readers. However, laptops will have 40 extra months to comply with the new rule, as they tend to require more power and use a wider variety of chargers.

EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager celebrated the new rule on Twitter, citing the “waste and inconvenience” of having multiple chargers.

The decision is expected to have a substantial impact on Apple’s iPhone, which is the only major smartphone not to already use the cable, relying instead on the company’s proprietary Lightning cable. Currently, around 20 per cent of devices sold in Europe use this type of charger.

Apple has historically argued against the proposal, stating that it would “stifle innovation” and “harm consumers all around the world”.  

The UK currently appears unlikely to follow the EU’s decision with the government saying in June that it was not currently considering introducing a similar rule.

However, under the current post-Brexit arrangements, the “new requirements may also apply to devices sold in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit agreement, potentially triggering divergence of product standards with the rest of the UK”, according to a December 2021 parliamentary report.

The move is also expected to help reduce e-waste. One study has estimated that the world’s mountain of discarded electronics, for 2021 alone, weighed 57 million tonnes – more than the entire Great Wall of China, and other surveys have shown that less than 20 per cent of e-waste is collected and recycled, a figure that is growing by about two million tonnes every year.

The legislation has been under development for more than a decade, but it was finally approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday, after an agreement on its scope was reached in the summer. It also includes provisions designed to address wireless chargers in the future, as well as harmonising fast-charging standards.

Member states are expected to grant approval on 24 October, before the rule is signed into law at the Parliament.

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