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‘A great day for consumers in Europe’: EU votes for single smartphone charger

The EU parliament on Tuesday passed a new law requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets and cameras from late 2024 in a move that was heralded a "great day for consumers".

'A great day for consumers in Europe': EU votes for single smartphone charger
A picture taken on February 6, 2020 in Brussels shows plugs for mobile charger next to a European flag. - The European Parliament demanded 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. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

The measure, which EU lawmakers adopted with a vote 602 in favour, 13 against, will – in Europe at least – push Apple to drop its outdated Lightning port on its iPhones for the USB-C one already used by many of its competitors.

Makers of laptops will have extra time, from early 2026, to also follow suit.

EU policymakers say the single charger rule will simplify the life of Europeans, reduce the mountain of obsolete chargers and reduce costs for consumers.

It is expected to save at least 200 million euros ($195 million) per year and cut more than a thousand tonnes of EU electronic waste every year, the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said.

The EU move is expected to ripple around the world.

The European Union’s 27 countries are home to 450 million people who count among the world’s wealthiest consumers. Regulatory changes in the bloc often set global industry norms in what is known as the Brussels Effect.

“Today is a great day for consumers, a great day  for our environment,” Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba, the European Parliament’s pointman on the issue, said.

“After more than a decade; the single charger for multiple electronic devices will finally become a reality for Europe and hopefully we can also inspire the rest of the world,” he said.

Faster data speed

Apple, the world’s second-biggest seller of smartphones after Samsung, already uses USB-C charging ports on its iPads and laptops.

But it resisted EU legislation to force a change away from its Lightning ports on its iPhones, saying that was disproportionate and would stifle innovation.

However some users of its latest flagship iPhone models — which can capture extremely high-resolution photos and videos in massive data files — complain that the Lightning cable transfers data at only a bare fraction of the speed USB-C does.

The EU law will in two years’ time apply to all handheld mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, portable speakers, handheld videogame consoles, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, mice and portable navigation systems.

People buying a device will have the choice of getting one with or without a USB-C charger, to take advantage of the fact they might already have at least one cable at home.

Makers of electronic consumer items in Europe agreed a single charging norm from dozens on the market a decade ago under a voluntary agreement with the European Commission.

But Apple refused to abide by it, and other manufacturers kept their alternative cables going, meaning there are still some six types knocking  around.

They include old-style USB-A, mini-USB and USB-micro, creating a jumble of cables for consumers.

USB-C ports can charge at up to 100 Watts, transfer data up to 40 gigabits per second, and can serve to hook up to external displays.

Apple also offers wireless charging for its latest iPhones — and there is speculation it might do away with charging ports for cables entirely in future models.

But currently the wireless charging option offers lower power and data transfer speeds than USB-C.

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BUSINESS

France fines Amazon €3.3 million over contracts with third-party sellers

France's fraud authority said on Wednesday that it would fine e-commerce giant Amazon €3.3 million for its slowness in updating contracts with third-party sellers on its platform.

France fines Amazon €3.3 million over contracts with third-party sellers

In a statement, the competition, consumer and anti-fraud office (DGCCRF) said it had already ordered the company to correct “a significant imbalance in contractual conditions to Amazon’s benefit” in December 2021.

Amazon blew past the March 22 deadline to comply, with Wednesday’s penalty corresponding to €90,000 per day it failed to make the changes.

The US web giant had already been fined €4 million by the Paris trade court in 2019 for unfair conditions in its contracts with third-party sellers, the DGCCRF recalled.

“New irregularities” were uncovered in a fresh probe after that judgment, it added.

The fine against Amazon is the first use of a new DGCCRF power allowing it to impose penalties of up to one percent of a company’s worldwide revenue “relative to the seriousness of the harm to economic order”.

An Amazon spokesman said the company “remains in disagreement with the DGCCRF on its conclusions, its decisions and the relevant penalty, and is contesting each of them in court”.

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