Updated Sep 23, 2021

EU proposes a common charger to tackle e-waste

The EU Commission has taken an important step against e-waste and consumer inconvenience, primarily caused by the number of different, incompatible chargers for electronic devices.

Working with industry on a voluntary approach has already brought down the number of mobile phone chargers from 30 to three within the last decade, but a complete solution to date has not been found. The Commission is now putting forward legislation to establish a common charging solution for all relevant devices.

Proposals for an amendment to the Radio Equipment Directive, will result in the charging port and fast charging technology being harmonised. USB-C will become the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.

In addition, the Commission proposes to unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices. This will improve consumers' convenience and reduce the environmental footprint associated with the production and disposal of chargers, thereby supporting the green and digital transitions.

What is being proposed?

The Commission is proposing:

A harmonised charging port for electronic devices, which will allow consumers to charge their devices with the same USB-C charger, regardless of the device brand or the device type.

Harmonised fast charging technology, to help prevent different producers unjustifiably limit the charging speed, which will help ensure that charging speed is the same when using any compatible charger for a device.

Unbundling the sale of a charger from the sale of the electronic device, so consumers will be able to purchase a new electronic device without a new charger. This will limit the number of unwanted chargers and is estimated will reduce the amount of electronic waste by almost a thousand tonnes' yearly.

Improved information for consumers, so producers will need to provide relevant information about charging performance, including information on the power required by the device and if it supports fast charging. This will make it easier for consumers to see if their existing chargers meet the requirements of their new device or help them to select a compatible charger. This would help consumers limit the number of new chargers purchased and help save €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases.

What happens next?

The Proposal for amendments to the Radio Equipment Directive will now need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.

A transition period of 24 months from the date of adoption will give the industry ample time to adapt before the entry into application.

To have a common charger, full interoperability is required on both sides of the cable, the electronic device and the external power supply. The Proposal covers the device end, which is the biggest challenge.

However the external power supply will be addressed by a review of the Ecodesign Directive, which will be launched later this year.

Commission comment

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said:

"European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions."

Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for the Internal Market, said:

"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that. With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste."

For more information, see:

  • Proposal COM(2021)547 for a Directive amending Directive 2014/53/EU on the making available on the market of radio equipment;
  • Directive 2014/53/EU on the making available on the market of radio equipment;
  • Directive 2009/125/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products.