Consumers benefit from new requirements – EU is probably introducing uniform charging cables for cell phones – Switzerland is following suit
– The EU will probably introduce a uniform charging cable for cell phones – Switzerland is following suit
It’s a setback for Apple: The EU Commission wants to force manufacturers to only use USB-C cables. Switzerland is ready to accept this decision.
Bjorn Finke, Jon Mettler
The Californian technology company Apple will probably have to switch to other charging cables for its cell phones. On Thursday, the EU Commission presented a draft law in Brussels that will force all manufacturers to use USB-C cables in the future. The requirement should apply to charging cell phones, tablets, cameras, headphones or game consoles.
USB-C is the type of cable most commonly used on higher end phones. However, Apple uses its own Lightning standard for smartphones.
The aim of the law is to make life easier for consumers: every plug should fit into every phone or tablet. The bill also requires manufacturers to sell cell phones without a charger included. The EU Commission hopes that customers will only buy the phone if they already have the charger and charging cable in the drawer at home.
In total, the legal act should help avoid 980 tons of electronic waste per year.
Overall, the legal act, which the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers still have to approve, should help avoid 980 tonnes of electronic waste per year, the authority estimates. Citizens were spared expenses of 250 million euros annually.
Since the EU is an important market for providers like Apple, the new rules may well become a global standard. After all, it would be expensive for the corporations to produce different charging sockets and charging cables depending on the region.
Switzerland has been setting guidelines since 2017
The decision in Brussels also has an impact on Switzerland. A spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Communication (OFCOM) wrote to this newspaper: “Swiss legislation is ready to take over the EU decision.”
In Switzerland, it has been mandatory since 2017 that all smartphones and tablets must be compatible with a uniform charger. Apple adheres to the interface to the power supply unit, which is a USB connection. The Lightning standard is also used in Switzerland for the interface to the mobile device. The Swiss Confederation has so far held back with sanctions. The reason: She wants to wait for the final decision of the EU first.
“We are concerned that strict regulation that only prescribes one type of connector hampers rather than encourages innovation.”
Apple Switzerland defends business practice with its own standards. “We are concerned that strict regulation that only prescribes one type of connector hinders rather than encourages innovation,” says a company spokesman. That harms users in Europe and around the world.
The EU directive only deals with the cable entry to the cell phone or tablet. On the other side of the cable, diversity can continue to prevail – i.e. at the connection with the charging block at the socket. In fact, there are only two connection types there.
The commission announces anyway that it wants to enforce full compatibility here as well, with the help of another law. A transition period of two years is planned so that companies like Apple can adapt to all the changes.
Long fight against Apple & Co.
Brussels’s fight against cable clutter has a long history. At the urging of the commission, the industry promised to tackle the problem as early as 2009 – with success, because the number of connection types fell from 30 to 3: USB-C, Lightning and Micro-USB. The latter is now considered to be obsolete.
But that is not enough for the Commission. A new voluntary initiative by manufacturers in 2018 rejected the authority as inadequate and instead began to prepare a law.
Jon Mettler has been a business editor at the central editorial office of Tamedia since 2018. He reports on telecommunications, digitization, tourism and the watch industry. For his data journalistic analysis of judgments of the Bernese Higher Court, he received the ancillary media award of the Swiss Bar Association in 2015.