Apple may be forced to drop the Lightning connector on iPhones for the USB-C charging port if European lawmakers get their way.
On Monday, members of European Parliament urged the European Commission to take regulatory action to force every smartphone vendor to adopt a single charging method. In response, the commission plans to consider a “legislative approach” to tackling the issue, Commissioner Maros Sefcovic said following the debate.
“I heard you loud and clear. Very rarely do you have unanimous opinion in the debate,” Sefcovic said.
The @EU_Commission strongly supports harmonisation of chargers for mobiles. In 2009, we had >30 charging solutions. Now 3 main solutions. In the discussion w #industry we insist on the following objectives ??consumer convenience ??safety & interoperability ??reduction of e-waste. pic.twitter.com/jdcJ8pIk7s
— Maroš Šefcovic???? (@MarosSefcovic) January 13, 2020
For the past 10 years, the European Commission has been pushing for a single charging method for mobile phone devices. However, it’s done so by encouraging tech vendors to voluntarily adopt a single charging standard, rather than demanding the change through regulation or law.
The campaign has certainly made headway, bringing down the number of charger types from over 30 in 2009 all the way down to three: USB Type C, micro-USB, and Apple’s Lightning port. Nevertheless, European lawmakers are frustrated that 10 years have passed, and still consumers have to wrestle with managing different charging technologies. During Monday’s debate, they pointed how the tech industry is generating additional e-waste by maintaining the various standards, which often saddles consumers with a mess of different cords and adapters.
“This is hugely detrimental for the environment,” said European Parliament member Alex Agius Saliba during the debate. “(In the EU) we have more than 51,000 tons per year coming from chargers.”
Ideally, one standard would not only eliminate the excessive waste, but also free the tech industry from bundling a new charger with every smartphone sold, and thereby raising the final price. Instead, consumers could use their existing chargers. But the European lawmakers didn’t just stop at smartphones. They complained about how all mobile devices, including tablets, e-readers, and cameras, can end up using different charging ports as well.
“We cannot let the interests of private profits overrule the interests of the people and the planet,” said Petra De Sutter, another parliament member. “We need to seize that opportunity and come with a sustainable solution as fast as possible. We lost already much time.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a year ago, the company told the commission a single charging port would “freeze innovation rather than encourage it.” Ironically, Apple also warned that forcing iPhones to switch to USB-C would render existing Lightning cables obsolete, and thus generate more e-waste.
The European Commission plans to hold a vote on the matter at a later session.