The European Parliament passed new legislation requiring USB Type-C to be the single charger standard for all new tablets, cameras and smartphones from the end of 2024. The new rule, which lawmakers approved with a vote of 602 for and 12 against, will force Apple to drop its Lighting port on its iPhones in favor of the USB-C port used by its competitors.

Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.

The law must now be approved by the EU Environment Council, but this is considered a formality as a political agreement has already been reached between lawmakers. Once the Council gives its official green light, the law will come into effect. It will first apply to cameras, mobile phones and tablets at the end of 2024, then will be extended to laptops by spring 2026.

EU policymakers say the one-charger rule will make life much easier for Europeans while reducing the mountain of outdated chargers and lowering costs for consumers. It is expected to save at least $195 million a year and reduce more than a thousand tonnes of e-waste every year, the EU’s competition chief has estimated.

“Today is a great day for consumers, a great day for our environment,” lawmaker Alex Agius Saliba, the European Parliament’s spokesperson on the issue, said in a statement. “After more than a decade, the single charger for multiple electronic devices will finally become a reality for Europe and I hope we can inspire the rest of the world as well.”

A problem for Apple

Apple, the world’s second-largest smartphone seller after Samsung, already uses USB-C on its iPads and laptops. But it has resisted legislation to force a change to its lighting ports on its iPhones, saying it would stifle innovation. However, users have complained that the Lighting cable transfers data at a fraction of the speed of USB-C.

Consumer electronics manufacturers in Europe agreed a decade ago on a single charging standard out of dozens available on the market under a voluntary agreement. However, Apple refused to comply, and other companies maintained their alternative cables. They include mini-USB, USB-A and USB-micro – a jumble of cable options.

USB-C ports offer a wide range of benefits. They can charge up to 100 watts, transfer data up to 40 gigabits per second and can serve as a connection to external devices. Apple also offers wireless charging for its latest iPhones. But the wireless option offers less power and data transfer speed than USB-C.

Another piece of legislation requires device makers to incorporate labels telling consumers about the charging characteristics of new devices, in hopes of making it easier for them to see if their existing chargers are compatible. The idea is that they can make an informed choice about whether or not to buy a new charger with a new product.

However, there is the risk of confused consumers buying a new charger “just in case” – generating charger e-waste, and it is likely that some retailers will try to take advantage of this to generate some extra cash.

Ultimately, however, the move should reduce e-waste, which is a growing problem not just in Europe, but across much of the world. Currently, discarded and unused chargers account for around 11,000 tonnes of e-waste in the EU every year, according to the European Commission.

“We have waited more than ten years for these rules, but we can finally leave the current plethora of chargers in the past. This future-proof law enables the development of innovative charging solutions in the future, and it will benefit everyone, from frustrated consumers to our vulnerable environment,” said Parliament’s rapporteur, Alex Agius Saliba.