After the European Union (EU) announced that many consumer tech devices using wired charging will have to be equipped with USB-C by 2024, three US senators are seeking a similar standard. In a letter, Senators Edward Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders asked Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to consider a strategy that would require universal charging standards for consumer technology devices.
The senators didn’t mention USB-C but did cite upcoming European legislation that will require the use of USB-C for smartphones, digital cameras, e-readers, headsets, laptops and devices. other consumer technology products. However, the letter emphasizes the failure of the consumer electronics industry to establish uniform standards for charging accessories and the resulting economic and environmental damage.
Below is an excerpt from the letter:
Dear Secretary Raimondo:
We are writing to you about the economic and environmental damage inflicted by the consumer electronics industry. This consumer electronics industry has not established uniform standards for charging accessories and forcing consumers to change their charging accessories frequently. This planned obsolescence is costly and frustrating for consumers, and leads to the proliferation of electronic waste. In response to these issues, the European Union (EU) has just passed important legislation requiring manufacturers of electronic devices to adopt a common charger for mobile devices across the EU.
We commend the Trade Minister for the steps he has already taken to address these issues and invite you to follow the EU’s lead in developing a comprehensive strategy. We invite you to follow the example of the European Union by developing a comprehensive strategy to reduce unnecessary costs for consumers, limit electronic waste and restore the process of purchasing new electronic devices.
In our increasingly digital society, consumers often have to pay for new specialized charging equipment and accessories for their various devices. This is not only an inconvenience, but also a financial burden.
The average consumer owns around three mobile phone chargers, and around 40% of consumers say that on at least one occasion they were unable to charge their mobile phone because the chargers available were incompatible. Innovation must profit. It shouldn’t come at their expense, force them to use incompatible accessories, and force them to buy different chargers for each device they own.
As of this writing, Secretary of State Raimondo has not responded to the letter.
The letter points to EU notes which reveal that in 2020, 38% of European consumers experienced at least once a situation where they were trying to charge their phone and the only chargers available were incompatible.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for a Digitally Fit Europe, said in 2021: European consumers have been frustrated long enough with incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We have given the industry plenty of time to come up with its own solutions, but now is the time to take legislative action for a common charger. This is an important victory for our consumers and the environment, which is part of our green and digital ambitions.
Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for the internal market, said: Chargers power all of our most essential electronic devices. With an increasing number of devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or that are not necessary. We put an end to this situation. With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronic devices, an important step in increasing convenience and reducing waste.
This experience is ubiquitous for Apple iPhone users who depend on the proprietary Lightning port. Apple is the best-known opponent of mandatory USB-C charging in the EU. She says the policy would limit innovation and create more customer confusion and electronic waste as Lightning chargers and accessories become obsolete.
As well as using EU data to make their case to Trade Secretary Gina Raimondo, the senators asked her to follow the lead of European lawmakers in crafting a comprehensive strategy to cut costs consumers, limit electronic waste and restore common sense and certainty in the process of buying new electronic devices.
However, it will be a long way to see USB-C or any other standardized charging solution in consumer gadgets. It took ten years for the European Union to adopt its legislation, which should not come into force before 2024. It faced strong opposition from Apple. For the Apple brand, the EU’s intransigent position on Lightning would contradict its policy on technological innovation. Imposing charging standards or supporting the European Commission’s proposal to make USB-C the only standard for wired charging of smartphones would, according to Apple, be a way to stifle innovation.
Meanwhile, the debate over a standard charger policy is beginning to take shape in the United States. Senators Markey, Sanders and Warren did not specify which technology products should be covered by the standard, nor the preferred charging standard.
The senators also did not suggest passing a law, but rather some kind of inter-agency discussion. Like the EU’s universal charging policy and the fight for the right to repair in the United States, common charging legislation in the United States would likely face opposition from businesses and political groups that believe that the government should be less involved. Noteworthy moves in this area are also worth mentioning, including New York State’s passing of the first right-to-repair electronics law.
The fight for the right to repair won a huge victory earlier this month when New York State passed a bill requiring manufacturers of digital electronics, such as laptop and smartphones, making diagnostic and repair information available to consumers and independent repair shops.
If the government is looking to standardize USB-C in some way, it helps that many electronic devices have already voluntarily adopted it. But it’s hard to ignore arguments that universal charging could stifle new charging techniques and be a way to stifle innovation. The EU has said it will change its policy if a new charging technology is more beneficial to consumers than USB-C, but this approach is clearly far-reaching.
Depending on which products are covered by a common charger standard, that could complicate things for companies that demand a premium for the faster and more ubiquitous USB-C. Likewise, it could impact products that take advantage of proprietary technology or alternatives like Micro USB, which can be bulkier and slower but cost less.
What is your opinion on the subject?
What do you think of the EU’s promise to have consumer tech devices equipped with USB-C by 2024? Feasible or not?
Does the opinion of senators who advise the United States to take the EU as a model seem reasonable to you?
See as well :
Towards a single charger for all smartphones and tablets in Europe? MEPs say yes to the universal charger and say it will help reduce e-waste
Apple’s battle with Europe over USB-C is a losing battle, wireless charging could be a way out
New York Passes World’s First Right to Repair Electronic Devices Act, a move that should make repairs cheaper and more comprehensive, iFixit says