The EU is pushing for standardized phone chargers again

Plans for a further push towards a common mobile phone charger are being examined in Europe. The EU commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, highlighted a lack of progress in the area, despite repeated attempts to reduce charger waste. According to a Reuters report, Vesteger told a lawmaker in Europe who inquired about the ongoing situation that the Commission found the currently voluntary system was making “unsatisfactory progress,” and that a new study would soon be launched to examine alternative options.

Called an impact assessment study, this will help the Commission decide if it should introduce new rules, and how they would operate. While there is no guarantee the study will result in any mandatory changes, the EU Commission has been trying to influence the way device manufacturers produce and bundle chargers with products since 2009. The environmental impact of these chargers is considerable, with the EU stating each year chargers make up 51,000 tons of electronic waste in the the region.

Mobile device manufacturers signed on to produce a common charger for all smart devices sold in Europe at that time, with the tandard based on the Micro USB connector, ready to end the use of proprietary cables and connectors. The original agreement was then re-signed in 2013 and 2014, and again in 2018 when USB Type-C was added. Apple, Samsung, LG, Sony, Google, Motorola, and Lenovo are all signatories. However, the scheme is voluntary, and not all the companies that signed in 2009 re-signed again in later years.

While it’s rare to find a modern smartphone that doesn’t use a USB Type-C or Micro USB charger, there has been an increase in the use of proprietary fast charging systems. These often require the bundled charging brick and cable to operate — OnePlus’s Dash Charge, and Huawei’s SuperCharge, for example — and only charge slowly when a non-compatible charger is used. Apple uses its own Lightning connector on the iPhone, but sells adaptors to alter the configuration of a Micro USB cable to comply.

A start date for the study has not been announced yet, and no information on the alternative options the EU will investigate has been revealed.

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