EU wants to force Apple and other tech firms to use the same phone charger

Could Apple be forced to ditch Lightning and adopt the same plug as its arch-rivals? (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The European Parliament has called for tech companies to be forced into adopting a universal charger – setting itself up for a clash with Apple.

A resolution was passed with 582 voting in favour and 40 against, calling on the European Commission to publish an impact assessment on introducing a common charger ‘with a view to proposing mandatory provisions’.

It cited the consumer and environmental problems with having a variety of chargers on the market as an argument to finally introduce an EU law on the issue.

European legislators have been pushing for a universal charger for a decade, but Apple has ferociously resisted.

The US company insists that the Lightning cable that charges its iPhones is part of its focus on ‘innovation’.

Apple’s Lightning port has been used by its products since 2012 (Photo: Getty)

Consumers currently have to decide between three main chargers to power their phones: Lightning cables for Apple handsets, micro-USB wires widely used on most other mobile phones and USB-C varieties.

That range is greatly simplified from 2009, when dozens of different types of chargers were bundled with mobile phones, creating piles of electronic garbage when users changed brands.

But the world still generates 50 million tonnes of electronic waste a year, MEPs said, underlining the need to take firmer measures. The EU accounts for nearly a quarter of that waste.

Apple, which already uses USB-C connectors on some of its iPads and laptop computers, says legislation to force a universal charger for all mobiles in the European Union is unwarranted.

‘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,’ it said in a statement.

‘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,’ it said.

But French MEP Geoffroy Didier said after the vote: ‘European consumers deserve better than indecent waste and pollution dictated exclusively by the commercial interests of a few industrial groups.’

The European Commission is preparing an impact assessment on the possibility of forcing manufacturers to offer just one type of charger.

It is due to be completed late this year, with EU officials to decide then whether to send a bill to the European Parliament to enshrine that in an EU regulation.

Before the impact assessment, the Commission will publish in the coming days “a study to evaluate the situation,” a spokesperson said.

European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic recently told MEPs that ‘we are looking at a combination of political options including regulatory and non-regulatory measures’.


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