In a proposal that could substantially change the smartphone industry, the European Commission has said that USB-C would become the standard across devices.
That includes not only phones but also tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.
It also suggests that the sale of phones and their charger should be separated, so that people do not end up with a host of chargers that they do not need and which become waste.
Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for the European Commission’s Europe Fit for the Digital Age strategy, said the decision to move to require universal chargers came after companies failed to find a fix themselves.
“European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers,” she said in a statement.
“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 remains the most obvious company not to move to a universal charging standard, instead sticking with its Lightning port, which would not be allowed under the new plans. The company has long argued that regulators should focus on the plug that goes into the wall, rather than the end on the phone, so that people can use their cables everywhere.
The European Commission said, however, that it would require “full interoperability is required on both sides of the cable: the electronic device and the external power supply”. The new regulations would ensure that is the case, it said.
The proposals relate to more than just the move towards a USB-C standard so that people can power up their phones with any charger. It would also require that fast charging technology is harmonised so that companies don’t falsely limit charging speeds; allowing people to buy phones without also getting a charger; and better information for customers about their devices when they buy them, such as details on how much power it uses and whether it supports fast charging.
The rules also mention the possibility of bringing in similar regulation of wireless charging technologies, if the same fragmentation happens as they are introduced, though notes that they are not yet required.
The new proposals will have to be adopted by the European parliament and the council through its usual processes. If it passes, the industry will be given 24 months to adapt before it comes into force.
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