On 23 September, the European Commission took a step towards consumers’ convenience and minimising the environmental footprint associated with the production and disposal of chargers. A proposal to amend the Radio Equipment Directive 2014/54/EU (RED) aims to make a single charger for mobile devices mandatory. Although the number of mobile phone chargers had previously been reduced from 30 to 3 over the last couple of years, industry failed to come up with a single solution. The Commission is now seeking to put an end to this with a common charging solution for all relevant devices.

The revision of the RED is part the Commission’s broader action to address the sustainability of products, in particular electronics on the EU market, which will be the focus of a forthcoming proposal on sustainable products.

In summary, the current proposal is foreseeing:

  • A harmonised charging port for electronic devices: USB-C will be the common port allowing consumers to charge their devices with the same USB-C charger no matter the device brand.
  • Harmonised fast charging technology: to help prevent different producers unjustifiably limiting the charging speed and help ensure that the charging speed is the same across any compatible charger for a device.
  • Unbundling the sale of a charger from the sale of the electronic device: consumers will be able to purchase new electronic devices without a new charger. This will limit the number of unwanted chargers purchased or left unused. This is estimated to reduce the amount of e-waste by almost 1,000 tonnes per year.
  • Improved information for consumers: producers will also be required to provide relevant information about the charging performance, the power the device needs, and whether the charger supports fast charging. This will make it easier for consumers to see if their existing chargers meet the requirements of their new device with the hope of limiting the number of new chargers purchased. Consumers could save around €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases that way.

Next Steps

Following the Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament and the Council now need to adopt it by ordinary legislative procedure. A foreseen transition period of two years from the date of adoption ought to provide industry sufficient time to adapt to the incoming changes.

In order to eventually achieve the goal of a common charger, full interoperability is required on both sides of the cable: the electronic device and the external power supply. The RED proposal seeks to tackle the interoperability on the device end while the interoperability of the external power supply will be addressed by the review of the Ecodesign Regulation. This is to be launched later this year so that its entry into force can be aligned with the RED proposal.