Europe's mass of different mobile phone chargers will be replaced next year by one type, following an industry agreement signed with the European Commission today.

The move means an end to household cupboards full of chargers, most only compatible with one kind of mobile phone.

"I am very pleased that industry has found an agreement which will make life simpler for consumers," said EU Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen after endorsing a voluntary commitment backed by 10 companies - Apple, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, NEC, Research in Motion, Samsung and LG.

The Commission was threatening legislation unless a voluntary deal was reached to enable all mobile users to charge their phones from a common charger design.

"This also means considerably less electronic waste, because people will no longer have to throw away chargers when buying new phones," went on Mr Verheugen.

"I am pleased this solution was found on the basis of self-regulation. As a result the Commission does not consider it necessary to introduce legislation."

Intense talks between the phone firms and Commission officials produced a "Memorandum of Understanding" indicating that the first generation of "inter-chargeable" mobile phones will reach the EU market from 2010, compatible with a new common charger.

The Commission says reducing the number of chargers unnecessarily sold will cut the associated electronic waste, currently amounting to thousands of tonnes a year.

Harmonised chargers will also improve energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption. And they should give mobile users an "easier life", cutting costs by removing the likelihood of needing a new charger to go with a new mobile phone, and by cutting confusion by removing the need to hunt all over the house for the correct charger.

Audrey Gallacher, customer relations expert for Consumer Focus, described the agreement as great news for the public.

"Industry has chosen to do the right thing for their customers by introducing a common phone charger," she said.

"This is a sensible solution to an everyday gripe for mobile phone-users, which will reduce frustration and confusion for consumers as well as cutting down on waste products."

Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour said: "Common sense has prevailed. This is a simple agreement that will have an extremely positive impact on users' lives.

"We will no longer have to worry about forgetting our chargers and having to ask around to find one that is compatible.

"This agreement will also encourage more chargers to be recycled, preventing electronic waste.

"Mobile phone companies should consider whether a new charger is now needed with every handset if there is a possibility that an old one can be recycled.

"It is particularly welcome that the Commission was able to reach agreement with the industry, without introducing new regulation."