Apple has questioned the European Commission’s proposal to make a mandatory universal charging port for electronic devices across the EU.
The steps are an attempt to crack down on the major impact of e-waste, as well as the inconvenience of consumers being forced to use several different compatible chargers for devices.
However, Apple has decried the proposals, stating that the move would likely increase the prevalence of e-waste and damage innovation in the market.
“We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.
The Commission said the move would “harmonise” charging ports, allowing consumers to charge devices with the same USB-C charger, regardless of the device brand.
Research has found that old chargers generate around 51,000 tonnes of e-waste every year. The EU said that the a “one size fits all” charger would improve quality of life for consumers and help the environment.
Commenting on the moves, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers.
“We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger.
“This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”
Apple said a universal charger would cause a ‘headache’ for customers who currently use its “Lightning” connector.
The spokesperson added: “More than one 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.”
He said the change would disrupt “hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories… creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users”.
In 2009, firms like Apple, Nokia and Samsung signed a ‘pledge’ to make chargers compatible with the micro-USB, helping solve the problem of having several different charging ports.
However, Apple released its own version Lightning port in 2012 and sold a micro-USB adaptor instead, whilst many other firms went to adopt the proposed micro-USB connector.
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Last year, around 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices were sold in the EU. According to data collected by the Commission, consumers on average own around three mobile phone chargers for use across several devices.
Despite this, the Commission said, more than a third (38%) said they have experienced ‘problems’ with charging their mobile phone ‘at least once’ because available chargers were incompatible.
“The situation is not only inconvenient but also costly for consumers,” the Commission stated. “Who spend approximately €2.4bn annually on standalone chargers that do not come with electronic devices. In addition, disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to pile up to 11,000 tonnes of e-waste every year.”
After years of working with industry, the Commission said it has reduced the number of mobile phone chargers from 30 to three within the last decade, but “could not deliver a complete solution”.
Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for the Internal Market, said: “Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices.
“With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that.
With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste.”