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US still has a long way to go before adopting universal charger policy, Senators say US should follow EU lead

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After the European Union (EU) announced that many consumer technology devices using wired charging will need to be equipped with USB-C by 2024, three US senators are looking for 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 did not mention USB-C, but they did cite forthcoming European legislation that will require the use of USB-C for smartphones, digital cameras, e-readers, headphones, laptops and devices and other consumer technology products. However, the letter underscores the consumer electronics industry’s inability to set uniform standards for accessory charging 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 set uniform standards for charging accessories and is 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 problems, the European Union (EU) has just passed major legislation requiring electronic device manufacturers to adopt a common charger for mobile devices across the EU.

We commend the Minister of Trade for the steps he has already taken to address these issues and invite you to follow the EU’s example in developing a comprehensive strategy. We invite you to follow the example of the European Union by developing a global 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 they have not been able to charge their mobile phone on at least one occasion because the available chargers 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.

At the time of writing this document, Secretary of State Raimondo did not respond to the letter.

The letter points to notes from the EU revealing 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 Europe in digital form, said in 2021: European consumers have been frustrated long enough by incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We’ve given the industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, but now is the time to take legislative action for a common charger. This is a major win 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 being sold that are not interchangeable or unnecessary. Let’s 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. He says the policy would limit innovation and create more confusion for customers and electronic waste as Lightning chargers and accessories become obsolete.

In addition to using EU data to present her case to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the senators asked her to follow the example of European lawmakers in devising a comprehensive strategy to reduce consumer costs, limit e-waste. and restore common sense and certainty in the process of purchasing new electronic devices.

However, it will go 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 is not expected to go into effect until 2024. It faced strong opposition from Apple. For the Apple brand, the EU’s uncompromising stance 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 on a standard charging 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 discussion between the agencies. Like the EU’s universal charging policy and the fight for the right to redress in the United States, common charging legislation in the United States is likely to face opposition from businesses and political groups who believe that the government should be less involved. Noteworthy moves in this area are also worth mentioning, including New York State’s approval of the first Electronics Repair Right Act.

The fight for the right to repair achieved a huge victory earlier this month when New York State passed a bill requiring manufacturers of digital electronics, such as laptops and smartphones, to make consumers and independent repair shops provide diagnostic and repair information.

If the government is trying to standardize USB-C in some way, it helps that many electronic devices have already adopted it voluntarily. But it’s hard to ignore the 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, this could complicate matters for companies demanding a premium for the fastest and most ubiquitous USB-C. Likewise, it could impact products that take advantage of proprietary technology or alternatives such as Micro USB, which may be bulkier and slower but cost less.

And she ?

What is your opinion on the subject?

What do you think of the EU promise to have USB-C equipped consumer technology devices by 2024? Feasible or not?

Does the opinion of the senators who advise the United States to take the EU as a model seem reasonable to you?

See also:

Towards a single charger for all smartphones and tablets in Europe? MEPs say yes to the universal charger and say it will help reduce electronic waste

Apple’s battle with Europe over USB-C is a losing battle, wireless charging could be a way out

According to iFixit, New York passes the world’s first law on the right to repair electronic devices, a move that should make repairs cheaper and more complete

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