MEPs demand universal mobile phone charger setting up clash with Apple

The European Parliament demanded Thursday that the EU urgently force tech companies to adopt a universal charger, setting up a clash with Apple and its widely used iPhone connector cable.

A resolution, voted 582 in favour and 40 against, called on the European Commission to publish an impact assessment on introducing a common charger "with a view to proposing mandatory provisions".

It cited consumer and environmental problems with having a variety of chargers on the market as an argument to finally bring in an EU law on the issue. European legislators have been pushing for a universal charger for a decade, but Apple has ferociously resisted.

The US company insists that its Lightning cable that charges its iPhones is part of a stand for "innovation".

Consumers currently have to decide between three main chargers to power their phones: Lightning ones for Apple handsets, micro-USB ones widely used on most other mobile phones, and USB-C ones that are increasingly being used.

That range is greatly simplified from 2009, when dozens of different types of chargers were bundled with mobile phones, creating piles of electronic garbage when users changed brands.

But the world still generates 50 million tonnes of electronic waste a year, MEPs said, underlining the need to take firmer measures. The EU accounts for nearly a quarter of that waste.

Apple, which already uses USB-C connectors on some of its iPads and laptop computers, says legislation to force a universal charger for all mobiles in the European Union is unwarranted.

"We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole," it said in a statement.

"We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly," it said.

But French MEP Geoffroy Didier said after the vote: "European consumers deserve better than indecent waste and pollution dictated exclusively by the commercial interests of a few industrial groups." The European Commission is preparing an impact assessment on the possibility of forcing manufacturers to offer just one type of charger. It is due to be completed late this year, with EU officials to decide then whether to send a bill to the European Parliament to enshrine that in an EU regulation.

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