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Universal charger standard urgently needed, says the European Parliament

The result is irrevocable and reflects the impatience of the Old Continent. On Thursday 30 January the European Parliament overwhelmingly supported (582 votes in favor, 40 against and 37 abstentions) a resolution calling on the new Commission chaired by Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen to take urgent regulatory measures – thus binding on the industry – to finally achieve a universal charger for all portable devices.

Parliamentarians believe that time has come for the legislator to overcome the inability of the industry to agree on a standard device that could be used for all small and medium-sized devices (from smartphones, tablets, cameras, readers, and mobile phones, to mention only the most common product categories).

Elected officials note that the population “always has to deal with different types of chargers on the market,” which, given the relatively high rate of equipment renewal among the general public, unnecessarily leads to the production of additional e-waste, which could be reduced if a frequent basis were adopted.

Beyond convenience, therefore, there is an environmental issue: in Europe in 2016, total e-waste production will amount to 12.3 million tonnes or an average of 16.6 kg per person. This share could be reduced if chargers could feed more products: not only would they be thrown away less, but it would also be possible to produce less of them.

Challenges for Europe and the environment

Moreover, this is one of Parliament’s requests: to make the charger optional when purchasing any electronic device. “Strategies to decouple the purchase of chargers from the purchase of new devices should be introduced with a universal charging solution,” argue the MEPs. But beware: all this must be done without any price increase for customers.

The resolution adopted has no binding legal force but calls on the European Commission to look where its interest lies: “it is essential for the credibility of the European Union on the international stage and to its citizens that legislative acts adopted by the Union are transposed in good time through concrete legislative measures,” observes the Parliament.

In 2018, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has since been reappointed, said that “given the unsatisfactory progress of this voluntary approach, the Commission will soon launch an impact study to assess the costs and benefits of various other options.” Things have slipped since then.

Finally, on the periphery of this issue, Parliament wants the Commission to promote the interoperability of wireless chargers with different portable devices and to look into legislative initiatives that will improve the collection and recycling of chargers on the continent. Brussels is invited to formulate its proposals by July 2020 at the latest. That is six months from now. But the subject has been dragging on for ten years.