Wednesday June 08, 2022

EU mandates common charging point by 2024

EU mandates common charging point by 2024

U commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton shows his mobile phone during a press conference on a common charging solution for electronic devices at the EU headquarters in Brussels. AFP

A common charging port for all electronic gadgets including laptops, mobile phones and cameras across European Union countries by 2024 is the new law made by the European Parliament. It might seem that it is an unnecessary intervention by the government, and it should have been left to the market forces to decide. But on second thoughts it will become apparent that the common charging port will help people from the burden of paying extra money for the specifications of the charger of each make.

There are now three kinds of charging port which are in operation: the USB-micro-connector, the USB-C micro-connector and the Lightning connector. The USB-C micro-connector is used by the Android users and the Lightning connectors by the iPhone users. The EU has been trying to push for a common charging point for a decade now. It is the Apple company that has resisted the move, arguing that it will kill innovation. But the European lawmakers found that consumers have been spending more to buy the different charging points, and it will be of great help to the users to have a common charging point. Apple will produce a common charging point now. If the new law had not come into force, people would have had to make the hard choice of buying an Apple product without the possibility of a common charging port.

It was reckoned that in 2018, half of the charging ports were USB micro-B connector, 29 per cent were of the USB Type-C connector and 21 per cent used the Lightning connector which was used with the Apple phones. “By autumn 2024, USB Type-C will become the common charging port for all mobile phones, tablets and cameras in the EU,” an EU Parliament statement said. According to EU industry chief Thierry Breton the deal would save 250 million euros ($267 million) for consumers. He said, “It will also give new technologies such as wireless charging, to emerge and to mature without letting innovation become a source of market fragmentation and consumer inconvenience.” It will, however, be a matter of contention whether the common charging port should have come about as a market necessity but not through legislation.

It is now felt that it will most probably encourage more people to buy iPhones because they do not have to struggle with the issue of a separate cable. It was expected that the companies, especially Apple and Android, would reach a common solution but they failed to do so. And the European Parliament felt that it had to intervene.

Legislation by a centralized authority that would make things easy for consumers at large is to be welcomed, but legislation should perhaps remain a means of last resort. The apprehension with the EU system is that it is overregulated and that it makes things more complicated. It is indeed the case that bureaucratic tinkering made with the best of intentions could end up creating a maze that could lead to utter confusion. And it is also evident that there has been less innovation and technological breakthroughs in Europe, especially in the field of electronics. It is of course a fact that both the American governments and private sector spend quite a lot of money on research and development compared to that in Europe. So, market regulation of any kind seems to inhibit innovative work. At the same time, it is necessary to protect the interests of the consumers, and they should not be forced to pay more because of the turf wars between the companies. Perhaps, there is a fair distribution of labour at work here. While the comparatively unregulated America turns up with new products, EY makes it amenable to consumers at large.

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