Europe is pushing for a universal charging port to cater for all electronic devices

Europe wants to pass legislation to mandate a common charger for electronic devices.
Europe wants to pass legislation to mandate a common charger for electronic devices.

I have a perfectly good video camera sitting in my cupboard, but I can't use it. It is a bit older than my current one but perfect to give to the kids when they want to do some videos. The issue is a common one.

I can't find the charger for it. In all my charging cables tucked away in my office from all those devices I have bought over the years, surely there would be a charger that suits this model but, alas, no.

I can still buy chargers online to suit this camera but they are rare and expensive and do I really want to throw money after an older camera? One day that charger will show up.

Well, if the European Union has its way, this scenario will be a story grandparents tell to their grandkids while the new generation smiles politely though not really understanding the story ... "proprietary charger? What does that even mean?"

The grandkids will be using batteries with USB-C ports built in to the battery itself or simply plugging in USB-C cables to the devices they want to use.

Imagine if all portable electronic devices, including phones; cameras; tablets; speakers and headphones, all had a common charger. In this case, USB Type-C. Europe in general and specifically the European Union, seems much more concerned about the environment than other parts of the world.

Apart from the sheer inconvenience of different charging ports, Europe generates almost 13,000 tonnes of e-waste from the half a billion chargers shipped to consumers each year.

This idea is not brand new. The European Commission suggested a single mobile charging port more than a decade ago in the vain hope that manufactures would find a common solution.

With micro USB; mini USB; 3.0 micro USB; Samsung 30-pin; Apple 30-pin; lightning and more, it seems obvious that the market is not going to solve the problem itself.

Legislation was drafted last year and just approved by the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) with a vote of 41 to 2 in favour of a common charger. In the coming weeks all 705 Members will attend a session where the legislation will be put forward. I can see no reason why the outcome won't be similar to the MEP.

On top of a universal charging port, there will be further proposals to include labels on products to show charging options and whether a product includes a charger. Clear and concise labels will help consumers make purchasing decisions or purchase products with additional chargers when they may already have those chargers.

Apple has stated that mandating one type of charging port will stifle innovation ...

Not surprisingly, not every manufacturer is happy. Also not surprising, a specific manufacturer that still uses a proprietary charger.

Apple has stated that mandating one type of charging port will stifle innovation which will harm consumers. I am somewhat confused by this statement. The iPad Pro; iPad Air and iPad Mini all have USB-C connectors. The iPad and all the iPhone models use Lightning ports.

If USB-C was going to stifle innovation, then why would three of the iPad models already be using it? I can't answer that one and I am not sure that Apple will answer it either.

Assuming Members of the European Union vote to standardise charging ports, talks can then begin with EU governments on the final legislation.

If successful, Apple may decide on a legal battle but I suspect that they will move their remaining products over before a deadline that the EU would impose.

Tell me an old device that you have lost the charger for at ask@techtalk.digital

  • Mathew Dickerson is a technologist, futurist and host of the Tech Talk podcast.
This story Imagine if all our portable electronic devices used the same charger first appeared on The Canberra Times.