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Apple Insists EU Push for Universal Charger Would Repress Innovation, Create Waste — Update

Updates with Apple comment By Mauro Orru and Joshua Kirby Apple Inc. hit back at…

Updates with Apple comment

By Mauro Orru and Joshua Kirby

Apple Inc. hit back at European Union moves to introduce a universal charger for smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices, saying such legislation would be anti-innovation and would serve to increase waste.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said Thursday that it is proposing USB-C as the standard port for smartphones, tablets, headphones, portable speakers, cameras, and some videogame consoles, regardless of the device brand. The move aims to cut waste related to the production and disposal of chargers.

It is also proposing to unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices to limit the number of unwanted chargers for consumers. This will reduce the amount of electronic waste by nearly a thousand metric tons a year, the commission said.

But U.S. electronic-goods giant Apple said late Thursday that legislation would disrupt the existing system, stifle innovation, inconvenience users and create more waste if existing chargers weren’t allowed to be sold.

“Some of the most innovative thinking at Apple goes toward building products with recycled and renewable materials,” the company said. “We share the EC’s commitment to protecting the environment and are already carbon-neutral for all of our corporate emissions worldwide, and by 2030 every single Apple device and its usage will be carbon neutral.”

Apple added that a proposed transition period of only two years would be a major concern for the industry. The company said it is working with the commission to better understand the details of the proposal, and would work to find a solution that protects both consumer interest and industry innovation.

The push for a universal charger in the EU’s 27 member states isn’t new. The commission has supported a common charging solution for mobile phones and other electronic devices since 2009, and has worked with the industry to bring down the number of charger types to three from 30.

Different leads and chargers have long plagued the industry and made life difficult for consumers, who had to chuck out perfectly good chargers when upgrading phones or changing brands, generating more electronic waste.

“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,” said Margrethe Vestager, the bloc’s digital-policy and antitrust czar.

The commission said that about 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices were sold in the bloc last year, with the average consumer owning around three mobile-phone chargers. It estimates that unused chargers or disposed ones generate up to 11,000 tons of electronic waste every year.

Thursday’s proposal will now need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council. When and if the proposal is adopted, a two-year transition period from the date of adoption will kick in to give industry time to adapt.

Write to Mauro Orru at [email protected], and to Joshua Kirby at [email protected]; @joshualeokirby