EU Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly in Favor of Common Charging Standard, Despite Apple's Protestations [Updated]
Despite criticism from Apple, EU lawmakers on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor for new rules to establish a common charger for all mobile device makers across Europe (via Reuters).
Members of the European Parliament voted by 582-40 for a resolution urging the European Commission, which drafts EU laws, to ensure that EU consumers are no longer obliged to buy new chargers with each new device.
The resolution said voluntary agreements in the industry had significantly reduced the number of charger types, but had not resulted in one common standard.
The Commission should adopt new rules by July, the lawmakers' resolution said, calling for "an urgent need for EU regulatory action to reduce electronic waste, empower consumers to make sustainable choices, and allow them to fully participate in an efficient and well-functioning internal market."
The proposed charging ports for portable devices include Micro-USB, USB-C, and the Lightning connector. Thursday's resolution didn't specify what the mobile charging standard should be, but non-Apple mobile devices and increasingly laptops and tablets are charged by USB-C. Even Apple's own 2018 iPad Pro models adopted USB-C wholesale, so the EU is highly unlikely to choose Apple's Lightning connector.
Apple last week pushed back against proposals for binding measures to make smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices use a standardized charging port such as USB-C. Responding to the proposals, the company issued the following statement:
Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience. We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole.
More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.
We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly. This includes Apple’s USB-C power adapter which is compatible with all iPhone and iPad devices. This approach is more affordable and convenient for consumers, enables charging for a wide range of portable electronic products, encourages people to re-use their charger and allows for innovation.
Prior to 2009, the Commission considered mandating that all smartphones use only USB Micro-B connectors which would have restricted the advancement to Lightning and USB Type-C. Instead, the Commission established a voluntary, industry standards-based approach that saw the market shift from 30 chargers down to 3, soon to be two — Lightning and USB-C, showing this approach does work.
We hope the Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to customers.
The European Commission, which acts as the executive for the EU, has been pushing for a common charger for more than a decade. However, the latest resolution makes legislation more likely, with the EU executive having included the common charger standard as one of the set of actions it plans for this year.
Update: There has been some confusion regarding the EU's resolution for a common charger standard, and whether the proposed legislation would cover just the charger brick or both the charger and connector cable – and thus the mobile device's port.
While the EU hasn't been particularly clear on this point, their recent Impact Assessment Study on Common Chargers of Portable Devices does suggest any regulation should cover the port as well as the connecting cable and charger. The key passage reads:
In summary, the most effective approach to addressing the consumer inconvenience that results from the continued existence of different (albeit mostly interoperable) charging solutions would be to pursue option 1 (common connectors) in combination with option 4 (interoperable external power supply).
Whether the commission accepts the recommendation of its impact assessment and enshrines it in EU law remains to be seen.