One plug and you’re done: The EU calls for a common method for charging phones

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LONDON (AP) – European Union officials on Tuesday agreed new rules mandating a unified charging cable for smartphones and other devices, a move that would make life easier for consumers who are tired of tangled cables to find the right one to browse.

EU negotiators said they had signed a tentative agreement on a “unified charging solution” as part of a broader effort to make products sold in the 27-nation bloc more sustainable and reduce e-waste.

The new rules, which will come into force by autumn 2024, mean that consumers in the EU will only have to use a common USB Type-C cable for small and medium-sized rechargeable portable electronic devices.

Devices covered include cell phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video game consoles, and portable speakers.

Laptops are also covered, but manufacturers have extra time to comply.

While many electronics manufacturers have started to integrate USB-C sockets into their devices, Apple has been one of the main holdouts.

Apple, which did not respond to a request for comment, has previously said it was concerned the rules would limit innovation and harm consumers. The company’s iPhones come with their own Lightning charging port, but newer models include cables that plug into a USB-C socket.

The EU rules also set standards for fast-charging technology and give consumers the right to choose between buying new devices with or without a charger, saving consumers 250 million euros ($266 million) annually, the EU estimates will.

Another goal is to reduce electronic waste. The EU estimates that discarded or unused chargers make up 11,000 tonnes of e-waste in Europe every year.

The EU spent more than a decade persuading the electronics industry to adopt a common charging standard, an effort that reduced different charging plugs to a handful until the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, forced the issue with a bill last September.

The European Parliament and European Council are expected to formally approve the deal after the summer break.

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