Products from Apple and other smartphone manufacturers will have to use the same charger under a landmark deal provisionally approved by European lawmakers on Tuesday, bringing years of debate to a close and overriding the tech giant’s complaints that such regulation would hamper innovation and harm consumers.
By Fall 2024, all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the European Union must be equipped with the same USB-C charging port for wired charging, according to a provisional agreement announced by European lawmakers.
The requirement—a world first—will apply to a string of devices including smartphones, headphones, e-readers, handheld gaming consoles, portable speakers and tablets “regardless of their manufacturer” and will also ensure charging speed is “harmonized” for devices that support fast charging.
Laptop makers must also comply, though they will have an additional 40 months after the new rules come into force to make the change.
Thierry Breton, the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market, celebrated the new rules as a win for consumers and an important step towards reducing e-waste, according to Bloomberg.
Given the number of electronic devices used every day, having “a common charger” is also “common sense,” Breton added.
The legislation, which has been negotiated within EU institutions for years, still needs formal approval from the European Parliament and European Council, which it is expected to secure later this year.
Key Background: The European Union has long sought to standardize electronic charging but for a decade has struggled to overcome the political barriers and opposition needed to do so. Such rules would slash e-waste, save money and be far better for consumers, who the bloc says are “frustrated” with “incompatible chargers piling up.” U.S. tech giant Apple, which has invested in its own “Lightning” connector and resisted moving to the technologies used by other smartphone makers, has been a particularly fierce opponent, arguing that standardization would harm consumers and stifle innovation.
What To Watch For: Wireless charging. The rules on standardized charger ports only apply to devices using wired charging, the EU said, meaning those only charging wirelessly will not have to include a USB-C port. However, the legislation will also allow the European Commission to develop standards for wireless charging in the future as it becomes more prevalent, according to the press release.
Big Number: $312 million (250 million euros). That’s how much money is wasted every year on unnecessary charger purchases in the EU, according to the European Council. There is also around 11,000 tonnes of waste produced every year from unused or thrown away chargers and cables, the bloc said.