EU eyes USB-C as common charging port

The European Commission has proposed legislation to mandate USB-C cables for charging.
The European Commission has proposed legislation to mandate USB-C cables for charging.

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 video game 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 members 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.

Breton denied on Thursday that the new rules would slow innovation.

"If Apple wants to continue to have their own plug, they will have the ability to do it. It's not against innovation, it's just to make the lives of our fellow citizens a little bit more easy," Breton said at the press briefing, adding that device makers could still put two different ports on their phones if they want.

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".

About 12.3 million tonnes 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.

with AP

Australian Associated Press