EU proposes USB-C charging standard and Apple isn't happy

The European Commission today took a big step toward making USB-C the charging standard for many devices sold in Europe. The Commission states that this proposed legislation would make USB-C the standard charging port on "all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers, and handheld videogame consoles." The Commission is also looking to unbundle the sale of chargers from devices once USB-C becomes standard to cut down on waste.

The new proposal was announced today on the European Commission's website, accompanied by a separate FAQ that goes into more depth about the decision. While the European Commission has been pushing for a charging standard since 2009, up until now device manufacturers have been working with the Commission on a voluntarily. That was good enough to bring the number of different charging standards down from 30 to 3 over the years, but now the Commission is proposing this legislation to make USB-C the single standard.

"European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers," executive VP for a Europe fit for the Digital Age said today. "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."

Of course, a number of smartphones and tablets already use USB-C as their charging port, but there's one company that's been resistant to that shift: Apple. Though we've seen Apple starting to trend toward USB-C with some of its iPads, most of the devices it offers are still charged via its proprietary Lightning connector. Apple, as one might imagine, is not very pleased with this proposal from the European Commission, issuing the statement below in response:

Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience. Some of the most innovative thinking at Apple goes toward building products with recycled and renewable materials. We share the European Commission'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.

We create products that enhance people's lives, making everyday tasks easier and more efficient, including how you charge and transfer data on your device. We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.

We look forward to continued engagement with stakeholders to help find a solution that protects consumer interest, as well as the industry's ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to users.

In addition to making USB-C the single charging standard for the devices listed in the opening paragraph of this article and unbundling chargers from the sale of new devices, the European Commission's proposal would also harmonize fast charging technology. The Commission says that such an effort "will help prevent that different producers unjustifiably limit the charging speed and will help to ensure that charging speed is the same when using any compatible charger for a device."

From here, the European Commission says that the revised Radio Equipment Directive will need to be "adopted by the European Parliament and the Council by ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision)." Assuming that happens, manufacturers will have 24 months from the date of adoption to bring their devices up to snuff as far as the new standard is concerned. Furthermore, the Commission will also look to standardize external power supplies by reviewing its Ecodesign Regulation later this year.

While we've been talking about charging standards for years, we've only come close to having one proper standard. This new proposal from the European Commission could be a big step toward having one true, universal standard, but of course, whatever rules the EU implements would only apply there. We'll have to see how things play out in Europe – and if that sparks similar conversations in other regions of the world – so stay tuned for more.