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Commission welcomes industry's commitment to provide a common charger for mobile phones

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Incompatibility of chargers for mobile phones is a major inconvenience for users and also leads to unnecessary waste. Therefore, the Commission has requested industry to come forward with a voluntary commitment to solve this problem so as to avoid legislation. As a result major producers of mobile phones have agreed to harmonise chargers in the EU. In a Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”), which was submitted to the Commission today, the industry commits to provide chargers compatibility on the basis of the Micro-USB connector. In addition new EU standards to ensure continued safe charger use will be developed to facilitate the implementation of the MoU. The first generation of new inter-chargeable mobile phones should reach the EU market from 2010 onwards.

I am very pleased that industry has found an agreement, which will make life much simpler for consumers. They will be able to charge mobile phones anywhere from the new common charger. This also means considerably less electronic waste, because people will no longer have to throw away chargers when buying new phones. I am also very pleased that this solution was found on the basis of self-regulation. As a result, the Commission does not consider it necessary to introduce legislation.

Today there is a plethora of chargers for mobile phones in the EU. Many of them can only charge a particular mobile phone. Almost every household has a collection of chargers that have become superfluous over time. Old chargers currently generate several thousands of tons of waste a year.

In intensive and constructive negotiations with the European Commission, the producers of mobile phones have agreed to settle the problem. In a Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) handed over to the Commission, industry takes a self-commitment to ensure the compatibility of new data-enabled mobile phones on the basis of the Micro-USB connector as the interface to provide charging support. It is expected to enable good charging capability. In the future:

  • Users will enjoy an easier life with their mobiles.
  • The number of chargers will be reduced
  • There will be a positive environmental impact.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Who will benefit and how?

Consumers will not need to buy a new charger together with every mobile phone, and they should also benefit from more efficient and cheaper stand-alone chargers. Consumers will be able to charge their mobile phone from the new common charger. The environmental benefits of harmonising chargers are expected to be very important: reducing the number of chargers unnecessarily sold will reduce the associated generated electronic waste, which currently amounts to thousands of tons.

What will be the impact of the MoU on prices?

Consumers will be able to purchase mobile phones without a charger, thus logically reducing their cost. They will also be able to purchase much more cost-effective stand-alone chargers than it is currently the case.

Are all mobile phones covered by the MoU?

The MoU covers data-enabled mobile phones, i.e. those which can be plugged into a computer to exchange pictures, files, music, etc. The MoU excludes mobile phones which do not support USB data exchange and also certain unusual formats of phone, for example phones worn as wristwatches.

Why does the MoU only apply to data-enabled mobile phones/equipment?

Mobile phones are short-life products. It is expected that from 2010 onwards most future mobile phones will be data-enabled.

Which is the agreed common interface?

On the basis of the Micro USB interface, the companies have agreed to develop a common specification in order to allow for full compatibility and safety of chargers and mobile phones.

How long will it take to charge a mobile phone with the new common chargers?

The large majority of phones will charge within 2 hours. Only in combination of a large battery with a small charger, the phone will charge within 6 hours.

How does the MoU consider possible safety risks arising from the use of chargers and mobile phones produced by different manufacturers?

The MoU will be accompanied by the development of new European standards, on the basis of which safe use of new chargers and mobile phones will be guaranteed.

When is the proposal likely to come into effect?

It is expected that the first generation of new inter-chargeable mobile phones will reach the EU market from 2010 onwards. The Commission will closely work with industry in order to facilitate an implementation of the agreement on the market as soon as possible.

Which companies have signed the MoU?

The following 14 companies have signed the MoU: Apple, Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, Research in Motion (RIM), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, TCT Mobile (ALCATEL mobile phones), Texas Instruments and Atmel

Where does the MoU apply?

The MoU covers the territory of the EU. However, as the market for mobile phones is essentially global, the MoU should be seen as a good model for other geographical markets. The Commission is committed to sharing this approach with its trading partners, in order to extend its benefits world-wide.

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