Thursday 23 January 2020 5:45 pm

Apple hits back at EU over 'wasteful' universal charger proposal

Apple has today lashed out at an EU bid to make the tech firm ditch its Lightning charger, alleging the proposed rules would “create an unprecedented amount of waste”.

Politicians in the European Parliament last week pushed forward calls for a universal charger for all mobile devices, amending a draft law to rule that all radio equipment within the bloc must work with a common charger.

Such a move would affect Apple more than any other electronics company, as most Apple devices use its proprietary Lightning port while the majority of Android devices have a USB-C port.

“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,” Apple said in a statement.

It added that such legislation was unnecessary as the industry as a whole has already begun to shift towards adopting USB-C charging connectivity as standard. It is expected Apple will transition its flagship iPhone to use USB-C within the next few years, as the port is already in use on its Macbook computers and on the iPad Pro.

Some European politicians believe the new law would reduce waste, while Apple said it will in fact do the opposite as many of its devices would be rendered obsolete.

The European Commission, which acts as the European Parliament’s executive arms, estimates old charger cables generate approximately 51,000 tonnes of waste a year.

A study by Copenhagen Economics, commissioned by Apple, showed that consumer harm from a regulatory-mandated move to a universal charger would cost at least €1.5bn (£1.3bn), outweighing the €13m in associated environmental benefits.

“We hope the [European] Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate,” Apple said.

In 2009, Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia signed a voluntary memorandum of understanding with the commission to harmonise chargers for new models of smartphones coming into the market in 2011. Most manufacturers opted to use a micro-USB port, however Apple developed its own Lightning port and instead sells a micro-USB adapter.

The commission will publish a study around the end of the month or early February on the impact of a universal charger.

“A delegated act based on the Radio Equipment Directive (RED) is one of the options to be considered since it empowers the Commission to take certain type of regulatory measures in this field,” an EU official told Reuters.

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