On 23 September 2021, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, presented a proposal for the harmonisation of chargers for electronic devices. This proposal shall aid consumers to limit costs and lessen inconveniences. Apart from that, less electronic waste shall help to reduce the environmental impact.
The EU Commission initially announced the harmonisation of chargers in 2009. However, due to pressure by the industry, it had only been possible to reach an agreement based on self-commitments. This led to a reduction of different chargers to only three models; however, it had not been possible to achieve full harmonisation. Now, the Commission wants to take the last step towards harmonising charging solutions for electronic devices and is presenting a Proposal for a Directive. However, due to a transition period of 2 years, the Directive will probably only be implemented from 2023 at the earliest.
The new requirements shall apply to mobile phones, headphones, headsets, digital cameras and handheld video game consoles and portable speakers. The legislative proposal included the following policies:
- Harmonisation of the charging port: the aim is to standardize the USB-C connector for electronic devices to ensure the interoperability of chargers. This makes it possible to charge devices independently of the respective brand with the same USB-C charger.
- Harmonisation of fast charging technology: harmonising underlying technologies shall ensure that manufacturers will not be able to unjustifiably limit the charging speed.
- Unbundling the sale of chargers and electronic devices: in future, consumers shall be able to buy electronic devices without a charger.
- Improved consumer information: manufacturers shall be obliged to provide information with regard to charging capacity and fast charging.
According to the Commission, harmonising chargers entails numerous consumer-related and environmental benefits. In accordance with the Commission’s calculations, consumers will save about 250 million Euro p.a., which are currently spent on purchasing unused chargers. The Commission’s proposal also promises eco-political improvements. About 1,000 tons p.a. less electronic waste shall be generated and 180 kilotons p.a. less CO2 equivalents shall be emitted.
The Commission’s proposals on harmonising charging solutions for electronic devices are to be welcomed in general. However, the Directive proposal’s area of application covers only six electronic devices, whilst the e-Book reader is unfortunately not included in the harmonisation process. One should also not forget that wireless charging technologies are currently on the rise: in this case, however, the Commission only holds out the prospect of future harmonisation. To sound a critical note, one should add that on the one hand wireless chargers use up to 47 % more electricity than wired technologies and that inductive charging reduces battery performance at greater speed on the other. Hence, it should be ensured that wireless chargers are at least as energy efficient as wired solutions.
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