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What you need to know about the EU’s plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Union has approved a new regulation that would force tech companies to use a standard charger for mobile phones and electronic devices. What does this mean?

What you need to know about the EU's plan for a uniform phone charger
The European Union will require all manufacturers use the same USB Type C for charging ports in certain devices. (Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash)

The European Parliament has approved an agreement establishing a single charging solution for frequently used small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. The law will make it mandatory for specific devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.

The rules have been debated for a while, and the announcement of the agreement has caused controversy, especially among tech companies and enthusiasts. US giant Apple has repeatedly lobbied against the standardisation, saying it halts innovation.

The EU says that the new rules will lead to more re-use of chargers and “help consumers save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases”. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, the bloc says.

So, what exactly are the changes?

Which products will be affected?

According to the European Parliament, the new rules are valid for small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable.

Laptops will also have to be adapted, the EU says.

Those devices will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port regardless of their manufacturer.

When will the changes come?

For most devices, the changes are set to come by autumn of 2024. However, the date is not yet set because the regulations need to go to other proceedings within the EU bureaucracy.

After the summer recess, The EU’s Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before publication in the EU Official Journal. It enters into force 20 days after publication, and its provisions start to apply after 24 months, hence the “autumn 2024” expectation.

Rules for laptops are a bit different, and manufacturers will have to adapt their products to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force of the laws.

Where are the rules valid?

The rules will be valid for products sold or produced in the European Union and its 27 member countries. But, of course, they will likely affect manufacturers and promote more considerable scale changes.

The USB-C cable, with the rounded edges, will be the standard for charging in the EU (Photo by مشعال بن الذاهد on Unsplash)

Why the uniform USB Type-C?

The bloc said the uniform charger is part of a broader EU effort to make products more sustainable, reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.

“European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device”, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said.

USB Type-C is a standard of charging that has been around for a while but still is one of the best options currently in the market. Also known as USB-C, it allows for reliable, inexpensive, and fast charging. A USB-C port can also be input or output, meaning that it can both send and receive charges and data.

Unlike other ports, it can be the same on both ends of the wire (making it easier and more universal in its use). It can also power devices and sends data much faster.

USB-C can also be used for video and audio connections, so some external monitors can charge your laptop and show your screen simultaneously with the same cable.

What criticism is there?

The project is not without criticism, most vocally from US tech giant Apple, a company that famously has its own charging standard, the “lightning” connection.

Apple claims that forcing a standardisation will prevent innovation, holding all companies to the same technology instead of allowing for experimentation. Still, Apple itself has been swapping to USB-C. Its iPads have already dropped the lightning standard. Its newer laptops can now be charged with the MagSafe proprietary connector and USB-C.

Apple iPhones are still charged with the company’s lightning ports – or wirelessly (Photo by Brandon Romanchuk on Unsplash)

The company’s popular earbuds and peripherals (including keyboards and mice) all charge with lightning. And, of course, the iPhone, Apple’s smartphone, also uses the company’s connection for charging.

While there have been rumours that Apple is working on new iPhones with USB-C connection (though definitely not for the next launch this year’s), the company could go away with wired charging altogether. Instead, like many tech manufacturers, Apple is improving its wireless charging solutions, even creating products dedicated to its MagSafe charging.

It won’t be completely free from the EU regulation if it does that, though. This is because the rules approved by the EU also allow the European Commission to develop so-called “delegated acts” concerning wireless charging. The delegated acts are faster processes that can be applied directly without being put to the vote.

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‘More Danes than ever’ victims of digital crime

Almost 190,000 people in Denmark were the victims of IT-related crime in 2023, according to new figures.

'More Danes than ever' victims of digital crime

The number, released by the Danish Crime Prevention Council (Det Kriminalpræventive Råd) represents a significant increase on the previous year’s figure of 150,000.

Denmark’s justice ministry, national police and the University of Copenhagen all work with the Crime Prevention Council in an annual study which tracks the figure through contact with victims.

It represents a trend which is unlikely to slow down in coming years, according to the Council’s director Erik Christensen.

“Technological advances mean that there are more and more doors through which the criminals can walk in relation to scamming us normal members of the public,” he told newswire Ritzau.

The emergence of AI could make it even more likely that people become subjected to digital fraud attempts, he said.

The study found that online payments and abuse of payment information were most common types of fraud defined as IT-related.

But “contact fraud”, in which scammers contact targets by email, telephone or online, is also on the rise.

The figure for that specific type of crime went from 13,000 in 2022 to 47,000 last year.

READ ALSO: Danish courts issue warning over SMS scam

“Our best advice is that if each of us takes good time when we get an email or SMS… and check whether it is [actually] from the Tax Agency, municipality or bank,” Christensen said.

He also advised asking a family member or trusted person for a second opinion before answering any email or SMS, if in doubt.

In the most common type of IT crime – online transactions – some 85,000 people in Denmark last year lost money to scams such as fake web shops or trades with private individuals.

Another form – which hit 64,000 people – involves purchase of a fake or counterfeit item.

Some 76,000 people were victims of having their bank card details stolen and misused, some 19,000 more than in 2022.

“We must move away from shaming people who get scammed because anyone can fall victim to it. Even when you look at these numbers, we know there are also unreported cases,” Christensen said.

The Council director stressed the importance of victims of online fraud not feeling shame over what had happened.