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The announcement of the new iPhone 15’s USB-C adoption marks an outstanding victory for European consumers and SMEs. Building from recent regulatory measures at the EU level, it confirms a substantial shift towards a fairer European circular economy.
A milestone for European consumers and SMEs
The increased interoperability obtained through the means of an EU Common Charger will allow consumers to avoid double spending on multiple chargers. Until now, Apple’s proprietary Lightning solution enabled it to compel consumers to pay for a different port. Moreover, this feat represents an important step towards a more equitable technological European landscape, avoiding proprietary lock-ins and where SME innovative services can instead be used for the purpose of a better circular economy.
This achievement also holds particular importance regarding sustainability. A December 2019 impact assessment study by the European Commission estimated that chargers account for 11,000 tons of e-waste each year, releasing an equivalent of 600 kilotons of CO2 emissions. As a result of the new measures, over 1000 thousand tons of electronic waste can be saved on an annual basis, as well as a reduction of 180 kilotons of CO2 and 2600 tons of raw material each year.
Where we are – and where to go to
Following an unsuccessful stunt at a voluntary industry approach, two amendments to the Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU formally introduced a common charging solution through legislation. Directive (EU) 2022/2380 defined the requirements of such a solution, while the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2023/1717 updated the references for technical specifications for wired charging. These new requirements go beyond the sole iPhone product – applying to all other portable electronic devices, laptops included. The range may be further extended, on the basis of market assessments carried out by the Commission on a regular basis.
EU countries now have until the end of the year to transpose the Directive at the national level. Yet questions are already being raised as to the quick development of wireless charging technology. Thanks to a charging pad, the latter bypasses the necessity of a charging port – through the energy transfer of a magnetic field to the device. Thereby new standards are being pushed on this new technology area, and may render the USB-C mandate redundant in the upcoming years. Notably, the Wireless Power Consortium-driven Qi standard has already been adopted by most major electronic portable device companies. As an open standard, however, Qi-enabled devices can connect to wireless chargers issued by any manufacturer. The potential benefit to smaller companies, through the avoidance of previous forms of lock-ins found with charging ports, will thereby have to be assessed.
The recent amendments to the Radio Equipment Directive compel the European Commission to present a report on this new wireless charging technology by the end of 2026. More specifically, Directive (EU) 2022/2380 mandates the Commission to request one (or more) European Standardisation Organisations to draft harmonised standards laying down technical specifications for such wireless charging technology, by the end of 2024. SBS and its member representing the digital sector, the European DIGITAL SME Alliance, both members of the Radio Equipment Directive Expert Group, will closely monitor any relevant developments and continue to push for an SME-favourable technological environment.
Article by SBS ICT member, the European DIGITAL SME Alliance.