Common chargers for mobile phones and similar devices

In “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age”

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On 23 September 2021, the Commission adopted a Proposal for a directive amending Directive 2014/53/EU on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to the making available on the market of radio equipment. The proposed legislation aimed at facilitating the creation of a common charger for a number of mobile devices sold in the EU.

Legislation creating a common charger was first announced in the 2020 Commission’s work programme. Originally announced for the third quarter of 2020, it had subsequently been postponed several times. This followed more than ten years of the European Parliament's repeated calls for harmonising mobile phone chargers, including two resolutions for an urgent adoption of common charger standards in this term. Though it was expected that the rules for the common charger would be set out via a delegated act (in line the provisions in the Radio Equipment Directive empowering the Commission to adopt delegated acts in order to impose harmonised solutions for a common charger), the Commission finally decided to propose a revision of the directive, which meant that it had to be adopted by the ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision).

The proposal of 23 September 2021 had the following elements:

  • it would apply to hand-held mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are able to be recharged via wired charging;
  • mobile phones would be required to be equipped with a USB Type-C receptacle on the device side and incorporate the USB Power Delivery (USB PD) charging communication protocol;
  • while the technology for wireless charging would not be harmonised, the Commission would be empowered to amend essential requirements via delegated acts for future solutions other than wired charging (to account for technological progress);
  • whenever end-users are offered a possibility to buy a device with a charging device, they would have to be offered a possibility to buy the device without a charging device as well (unbundling);
  • on the packaging or a label, manufacturers would be required to provide information on specifications relating to charging capabilities. This would include a description of the power requirements of the wired charging devices and specifications in relation to charging capabilities.

While the proposed directive would harmonise the receptacles and communication protocols on the device side, a separate initiative on the eco-design for the external power supply (EPS) would require the plug-in element of the charger to also include a USB Type-C receptacle and the USB PD protocol.

In the Council, the examination of the proposal took place in the working party on technical harmonisation. On 26 January 2022, the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) approved a negotiating mandate for the French Presidency to start negotiations with the Parliament. The mandate, which sought to improve consumer information and conditions for the delegation of powers to the Commission, aimed to introduce a pictogram indicating whether or not a charger was included with a device and a label on charging capabilities and compatible charging devices. Both graphic elements would have to be displayed on the packaging and close to the price indication in both offline and online shops. Member States would be required to apply the new provisions a year later than proposed by the Commission.

In the European Parliament, the file was referred to the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), with Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Malta) as rapporteur. On 11 January 2022, the rapporteur put forward his draft report. IMCO adopted its report on 20 April 2022. The report suggested that a larger range of small and medium-sized devices be included under the scope of the directive. It would also set several deadlines for the Commission: by the end of 2026, it would be required to harmonise wireless-charging solutions and assess and include other devices that can be charged by the USB Type-C under the scope of the directive; and by the end of 2028, it would be required to come up with a standard for devices that cannot be charged with the USB Type-C. The report would shorten the date of transposition and of the application, so the new provisions would apply nine months earlier than proposed by the Commission. On 4 May 2022, the mandate for the rapporteur to start negotiations with the Council based on the IMCO report was adopted by the plenary.

Trilogues started on 10 May 2022. On 7 June 2022, at the second trilogue, the co-legislators reached a provisional agreement. According to the agreement, from 2024, mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers rechargeable via a wired cable will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, while laptops will have to comply 40 months after the entry into force of the directive. The charging speed will also be harmonised for devices that support fast charging. Consumers will have an option to buy devices with or without a charger. They will have to be informed whether a charger is included with a device via a pictogram, while information on the charging capabilities and compatible charging devices will be provided on a label. The Commission will be required to request the creation of harmonised standards for wireless charging within two years of the adoption of the directive and will have to regularly assess whether the common charger should be mandatory for additional devices.

The agreement was adopted by Parliament on 4 October 2022 and on 24 October by the Council. The legal act was signed on 23 November 2022 and was published in the Official Journal as Directive (EU) 2022/2380. Member States are required to transpose it by 28 December 2023 and to apply it a year later to all devices, except to laptops, which need to be equipped with a USB Type-C by 28 April 2026.


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Further reading:

Author: Nikolina Šajn, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/01/2023.