USB-C cable

EU agrees to impose common USB-C charger

Image credit: Photo 209432124 / Digital © Ifeelstock |

European Union lawmakers have agreed to make USB-C a common charger for all phones and electronic devices sold in the EU from 2024.

In order to reduce e-waste and ease user experiences, all phones and electronic devices sold in the European Union from Autumn 2024, no matter what brand, will have a common USB-C charger, EU lawmakers have decided.

The deadline will apply to smartphones, as well as tablets, digital cameras, headphones, handheld video game consoles and e-readers. However, laptops will have 40 extra months to comply with the new rule, as they tend to require more power and use a wider variety of chargers.

The legislation has been under development for more than a decade, but an agreement on its scope was only reached on Tuesday, following negotiations between different EU bodies. The legislation also includes provisions designed to address wireless chargers in the future, as well as harmonising fast-charging standards.

“Today we have made the common charger a reality in Europe!” said the European Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba in a press statement. “European consumers were frustrated long [sic] with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics.”

Under the new rules, consumers will be able to use a single charger to power all their small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. Buyers will also be able to choose whether they want to purchase new electronic equipment with or without a charger.

"These new obligations will lead to more re-use of chargers and will help consumers save up to 250 million euro a year on unnecessary charger purchases," the EU wrote.

The move is also expected to help reduce e-waste. One study has estimated that the world’s mountain of discarded electronics, for 2021 alone, weighed 57 million tonnes - more than the entire Great Wall of China, and other surveys have shown that less than 20 per cent of e-waste is collected and recycled, a figure that is growing by about two million tonnes every year.

Lawmakers debated including a ban on vendors bundling chargers with each device, to reduce costs and waste. However, this proposition will now be addressed at a later date after further assessments by the European Commission and standards authorities.

The EU has worked with industry to reduce the number of mobile phone charger designs from 30 to three over the last decade, it said last year. One of the most affected manufacturers has been Apple, whose iPhone models use Apple's proprietary Lightning cable. Currently, around 20 per cent of devices sold in Europe use this type of charger.

The company spoke out against the European Commission's initial proposal in September, warning it would "stifle innovation," but has yet to respond to the passing of the legislation.

The EU throws away 12,000 tons of chargers each year, many unused, according to Bloomberg. At the same time, consumers spend around €2.4bn (£2bn) on standalone chargers not included with devices.

The new rules require formal approval the EU's Parliament and Council, which won't take place until after the Summer recess. It will enter into force 20 days after it is published in the EU Official Journal.

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