EU confirms USB-C charging ports will be mandatory from 2024

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The EU Council, Commission and Parliament have all agreed that from April 2024, when it comes to charging ports for mobile devices and laptops, there can be only one.

The proposed law has been wafting around the EU corridors of power for a while now, and the latest agreement by the three bodies seems to have cemented it. Going under the awkward title ‘Radio Equipment Directive’, the law essentially enforces one common standard charger type – USB-C – for all electronics in the bloc.

This includes phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones etc regardless of the manufacturer, though exemptions for devices that are too small to house it have been mentioned. Laptops will also have to be adapted to the requirements by 40 months after the law comes into force.

The law is pitched as a measure to help the environment, in that it would be better to not have dozens of cables in any given household that at some point will all end up in a landfill, and also a move to counter ‘vendor lock in’. The EU also seems to now be saying that manufacturers will have to provide information on the ‘charging characteristics’ of devices, and that consumers must be able to choose whether they want to buy new kit with or without a charging device.

And there’s more to come, the European Commission says it’s also having a look at the interoperability of wireless charging devices as well.

“Today we have made the common charger a reality in Europe!” exclaimed Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba. “European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics. We are proud that laptops, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, computer mice, and portable navigation devices are also included in addition to smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers. We have also added provisions on wireless charging being the next evolution in the charging technology and improved information and labelling for consumers.”

In terms of next steps, we are told the EU Parliament and Council will have to formally approve the agreement before it is published in the EU Official Journal. It will then enter into force 20 days after publication and its provisions will start to apply after 24 months, while laptops have 40 months to get with the programme.

Some gadgets have USB-C ports and some don’t, but the most obviously affected firm is Apple who builds its kit with proprietary Lightning chargers. The consumer electronics giant voiced some mild complaints about ‘strict regulation’ when it was first tabled, but assuming no byzantine EU process gets it the way it looks as though the whole thing has been given the green light. Which doesn’t leave Apple – or any other firm that doesn’t already use USB-C as standard – with very many options if it wants to carry on selling into the EU.


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