Universal charger: will the EU succeed in imposing it for electronic devices?

The European Union wants to impose a universal connector to charge most electronic devices under a proposal presented Thursday by the European Commission, a project that could further affect Apple, which uses a specific connector on its iPhone.

This project, which has been under discussion for ten years, should, according to the European executive, allow for greater environmental protection and save users 250 million euros per year.

According to the Commission’s proposal, all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and portable video game consoles sold in the European Union must be equipped with a USB-C port.

This port would allow devices that are no longer sold with new chargers to be charged indiscriminately.

The European executive also wants a revision of the so-called eco-design rules so that external power supplies are interoperable, which would be the last step towards a universal charger.

The Commission said it was not specifically targeting Apple but made the decision because the companies have not been able to agree on a common solution despite a decade of discussions that have nevertheless reduced the number of cell phone charger types from 30 to three.

Apple has expressed its opposition to the proposal.

We remain concerned that strict regulations imposing a single type of connector will stifle innovation rather than stimulate it, which will harm consumers in Europe and around the world

The iPhone maker also raised concerns about the 24-month deadline for companies to comply with the new legislation if it is adopted.

Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Industry, compared the plethora of charging cables on the market to a sea serpent.

“My job is to kill these sea snakes whenever I can,” he said at a press conference. “It’s for the consumers.”

Thierry Breton also rejected Apple’s arguments: “I’ve known these companies for years. Every time we make a proposal, they start saying ‘oh, this will be against innovation’. No, it’s not against innovation, it’s not against anyone. Like everything the Commission does, it’s for the consumers,” he pleaded.

Apple’s iPhones use a proprietary connector, called Lightning, while most Android smartphones have a USB-C connector. The two formats are incompatible with each other.

According to a Commission study, half of the chargers sold with cell phones in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector, 29% had a USB-C connector and 21% had a Lightning connector.

A green light from the European Parliament and member states will be needed for the Commission’s proposal to be adopted