USB-C selected as common charging port in EU under new proposal

FILED - A gernal view of the European flags in front of the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

The European Commission wants to make USB-C the standard charging port for portable devices in the European Union, in an anti-waste initiative that could irk US tech giant Apple in particular.

Under a long-awaited legal commission proposal unveiled on Thursday, the already widespread USB-C would be the go-to for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.

Apple, for example, would be free to keep using its exclusive Lightning port but would also have to build in a USB-C jack, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said during a Brussels press conference.

“European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers,” European Competition Commissioner Margethe Vestager said in a written statement. “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action.”

EU states and the European Parliament also need to sign off on the rules. Breton indicated on Thursday that the rules could be imposed in 2024 at the very earliest.

The EU executive branch has been pushing for over a decade for companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony to develop interoperable chargers for mobile phones and other portable devices.

Momentum built shortly after Ursula von der Leyen took office as commission president in late 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed the topic off the agenda.

In 2009, 14 major manufacturers signed a voluntary agreement to that effect. Despite progress, the market remained highly fragmented.
Apple has argued consistently that mandatory rules would hamper innovation and potentially cause many existing products to be needlessly thrown away.

On Thursday, the California-based firm said in a written statement it looked forward to working with the commission and other stakeholders on the proposal.

However, Apple “remains 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.”

Some 12.3 million tons of electronic waste – 16.6 kilograms per inhabitant – were produced in Europe in 2016, the European Parliament said last year in a resolution calling on the commission to take action on chargers.

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