The EU’s legislature voted 582 to 40 to pass a resolution aimed at pushing the European Commission to take action to unify smartphone charging solutions. Reuters reported that the European Commission, which drafts European laws and acts as the law enforcement agency, has been working to unify smartphone chargers for more than a decade.
The resolution notes that spontaneous agreements between some technology companies have significantly reduced the type of chargers in circulation, but there is still a lack of common standards in the industry. As a result, consumers face different types of chargers in the market, and sometimes even need to buy new chargers for each device. Wireless charging may be a solution, but the legislature is urging the European Commission to pay attention to fragmentation and ensure that the standards eventually adopted are compatible with multiple devices.
At the heart of the resolution is a reduction in the amount of e-waste. In 2016, Europe produced 12.3 million tons of e-waste, equivalent to an average of 16.6 kg per resident. The legislature says having all electronic devices use the same charger could reduce the amount of e-waste.
Unifying charger and charging cable standards will have a huge impact on businesses that use proprietary technology. Apple has a large number of users and these devices rely heavily on the Lightning charging agreement, so the EU resolution will have a serious impact on Apple. In a earnings conference call this week, Apple said it has more than 1.5 billion active devices worldwide, a large proportion of which (about 900 million) are iPhones. It was particularly ironic that Apple opposed the EU initiative last week, saying that a unified charger would “kill innovation” and that it would produce more electronics by allowing users of existing iOS devices to abandon Lightning in favour of USB-C.