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EU Common Charger to Become a Reality

Cutting down on electronic waste and reducing hassle for consumers are the aims of the EU’s proposed switch to a single charger for small electronic devices. The USB-C will become the standard port for all phones, headphones, tablets, cameras and portable speakers chargeable via a wired cable by late 2024 or early 2025. This will eliminate the need for consumers to have different chargers for different devices. The rules will also harmonise charging speed of new devices and introduce information requirements to be provided on charging characteristics of new devices.

The European Council, the Commission and the European Parliament have recently provisionally agreed an amendment to the Radio Equipment Directive which will introduce new rules to adopt a common USB charger for use with electronic devices. The new rules aim to reduce electronic waste, which is the fastest growing waste stream in the EU. For consumers, the new rules have the corresponding benefit of simplifying consumers’ charging needs by eliminating the need for a different cable or charging port for each separate electronic device. The common charger will be USB Type-C and will apply to specific electronic products which are chargeable via wired cables including:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Cameras
  • Headphones
  • Portable speakers, and
  • Handheld videogame consoles

In addition, the new rules will reduce the inconvenience experienced by consumers where different chargers have inconsistent charging speeds by aiming to ensure the same charging speed for each device when using a compatible charger.

Under the proposal, charger manufacturers and producers will need to provide relevant information to consumers such as charging performance, information on the power the device requires and whether it supports fast charging speeds. By eliminating the need for consumers to purchase a different charger for each electronic device, the move is also likely to reduce consumers’ costs in the electronics sector, and to reduce waste. Unbundling will be mandatory, ie a consumer will be able to buy a new mobile phone or device without having to buy a new charger.

Once entered into force, manufacturers are likely to have 24 months to comply with the new rules, with a longer period of 40 months expected for laptops.

The proposed amendments to the Radio Equipment Directive are part of a growing trend of the EU adopting legislation aimed at the protection of consumers, such as the EU’s New Deal for Consumers (previous article available here) and the European Accessibility Act which introduces accessibility requirements for certain electronic products and services (previous article available here). It remains to be seen whether the new requirements will be adopted by manufacturers globally or whether manufacturers will only adopt the common charger for the EU market.

Next steps

All manufacturers and producers of covered devices should take note of the proposed new rules. They will need to be ready to comply once the proposal is adopted. Consumers will generally welcome this development if it reduces the amount of charger cables lying around the house!

For further information, please contact a member of our Product Regulation & Consumer Law team

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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