Chargers for smartphones or tablets accumulate in many households. The EU is now putting an end to this and is defining USB-C as the uniform standard for charging sockets on numerous electronic devices.

Depending on the manufacturer, mobile phones, tablets, headphones and laptops often need different charging cables.

With a view to smartphones, the iPhone group Apple in particular had so far resisted a uniform solution in the EU with its in-house Lightning connector. On Tuesday, EU states and the European Parliament agreed that there will be uniform charging cables from mid-2024. The details:

Which devices are affected?

Initially, the EU Commission proposed that six device categories should fall under the new rules. In addition to smartphones, these included tablets, headphones, speakers, portable game consoles and cameras. During the negotiations, parliament was also able to ensure that laptops, e-readers, keyboards and computer mice, navigation systems, smartwatches and electric toys are also included. Requirement: The devices must be large enough for a corresponding connection. The regulation comes into effect later for laptops than for the other products.

Will I then get a new USB-C cable with each device?

Not necessarily. The device itself should be able to be sold independently of the charger and cable. Consumers would thus have the opportunity to decide whether they need an additional cable or not. After four years, the benefits are to be reviewed, and the separate sale could then even become mandatory.

What will the push do?

On the one hand, consumers should benefit from this – because there are fewer cables in their household and they also save money if they don’t have to buy a new power supply unit with every device. On the other hand, electronic waste should be avoided. The EU Commission speaks of 11,000 tons annually through disposed and unused chargers, of which around 1,000 tons could be saved.

The Green MP Anna Cavazzini also said about the outcome of the negotiations: “It saves resources, protects the climate and the nerves of consumers.” According to the EU Commission, consumers could save 250 million euros annually.

Why do critics resist standardization?

The digital association Bitkom says that innovations are being slowed down. Inductive, wireless charging is already becoming more and more popular. “The EU Parliament and EU states are lagging years behind in terms of technical development,” says Bitkom CEO Bernhard Rohleder.

Even Apple switched to USB-C on all Macbook laptops a few years ago. The group just brought back the in-house magnetic Magsafe charging connection to the new generation of the Macbook Air on Monday. Its advantage compared to USB-C is that the cable just pops off instead of breaking when you pull it hard.

Why isn’t there a standard for wireless charging?

The EU Parliament actually wanted to tackle this as well. The compromise now says: “The European Commission should take measures to lead to a standard for wireless charging,” said Cavazzini, who led the last round of negotiations on Tuesday. Two years have been set aside for this. EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton emphasized that the standards that have now been decided can also be adapted depending on technological developments.

When exactly do the rules come into effect?

The plan is mid-2024. It is considered a formality that Parliament and EU states will formally approve the compromise that has now been found. The rules will then come into force with a transitional period of two years from their official adoption – with the exception of laptops, for which 40 months are provided. The EU Parliament would have liked the changes to come more quickly, but was not able to enforce them here. However, Breton expects manufacturers to adapt their devices sooner.