One charger for all - Frequently asked questions
- What's the issue?
- What is the solution envisaged?
- Who will benefit and how?
- What will be the impact of the MoU on prices?
- Are all mobile phones covered by the MoU?
- Which is the agreed common interface?
- When is the proposal likely to come into effect?
- Which companies have signed the MoU?
- Where does the MoU apply?
- How long will it take to charge a mobile phone with the new common chargers?
- How does the MoU consider possible safety risks arising from the use of chargers and mobile phones produced by different manufacturers?
- Why does the MoU only cover mobile phones and not other products like MP3 players, laptops etc?
- What will happen to all the old chargers? Will they simply be dumped?
- I have already a Micro-USB charger. Could I use it to charge all mobile phones with a Micro-USB connector?
- Some producers are already talking about phones which don't need chargers and could be powered by solar power or electric/radio waves. So why the need for these chargers?
- Where can consumers buy these new common chargers? And will they be available in all Member States from January 2011?
- Will these new chargers cost approximately the same as other chargers or will they be more expensive?
Incompatibility of chargers for mobile phones is a major environmental problem and an inconvenience for users across the European Union. Currently, specific chargers are sold together with specific mobile phones. A user who wants to change his/her mobile phone usually acquires a new charger and disposes of the current one, even if it is in perfect condition. This unnecessarily generates considerable amounts of electronic waste.
Harmonising mobile phone chargers will bring significant economic and environmental benefits. Following a request from the European Commission and in close co-operation with the Commission services, major producers of mobile phones have agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) to harmonise chargers for data-enabled mobile phones sold in the EU. The industry commits to the provision of compatible chargers on the basis of the Micro-USB connector. Once the commitment becomes effective, it will be possible to charge compatible data-enabled mobile phones from any common charger.
Consumers will not need to buy a new charger together with every mobile phone, and they may 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 notable: reducing the number of chargers unnecessarily sold will reduce the associated generated electronic waste, which currently amounts to thousands of tonnes. The common chargers are also expected to improve energy-efficiency, thus reducing energy consumption as they will also comply with the newest European standards on energy efficiency.
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 is currently the case.
The MoU covers data-enabled mobile phones i.e. those which have a data port and can be connected to a computer. The MoU excludes mobile phones which do not support data exchange and also certain unusual formats of phone, for example phones worn as wristwatches. However, taking into account that people replace their mobile phone every two years on average and, according to market trends showing ever-increasing numbers of data-enabled mobile phones, it is hoped that the common charger will be predominant in two years time, after its introduction in 2011.
On the basis of the Micro-USB interface, the companies have agreed to develop a common specification in order to allow for full compatibility of chargers and mobile phones. These specifications have been translated in European standards.
N.B.: The agreement allows for the use of an adaptor.
It is expected that the first generation of new common charger mobile phones will reach the EU market from early 2011, after the conclusion of the standardisation work. The Commission will work closely with industry to facilitate an implementation of the agreement on the market as soon as possible.
The following 14 companies have signed the MoU: Apple, Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola Mobility, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, Research In Motion (RIM), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, TCT Mobile (ALCATEL mobile phones), Texas Instruments and Atmel. Together, their brands represent more than 90% of the mobile phones sold in Europe today.
The MoU applies to all 27 EU Member States. However, as the market for mobile phones is global, the technical specifications of the new chargers are being discussed with other international standardisation organisations to facilitate the adoption of the European common charger in world markets. The possibility of using the common charger in other parts of the world would make it even more convenient.
The large majority of phones will charge within 2 hours. When there is a large battery and small charger combination, this process may take up to 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 is accompanied by the development of new European standards which take account of electro-magnetic emissions and ensure that common chargers have sufficient immunity to external interference. Along with the application of existing standards under appropriate Directives, they will enable safe use of the new chargers and mobile phones.
It is expected that a harmonised charging solution that applies to other portable communication products may emerge and cover more and more devices over time. But this cannot be done immediately. First, mobile phones are by far the biggest group of these products used by a large group of consumers. Secondly, there is a difference between the products. Laptops, for example, have much bigger batteries than hand-held equipment, and requirements for chargers are not the same. Thirdly, there are different safety risks to be taken into account.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, promoting the collection and recycling of electronic equipment (Directive 2002/96/EC) has been in force since February 2003. It provides for the creation of collection schemes where consumers return their used e-waste free of charge. However, only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is appropriately treated.
Therefore, in December 2008 the European Commission proposed to revise the directives on electrical and electronic equipment: the Commission proposes to reach 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment.
I have already a Micro-USB charger. Could I use it to charge all mobile phones with a Micro-USB connector?
Some manufacturers already provide chargers with a Micro-USB connector but those chargers were produced for specific mobile phones and may not be suitable for charging all kinds of mobile phones with a Micro-USB connector.
The development of European Standards (including IEC/EN62684) was needed to ensure the compatibility and the functionality of the new generation of Micro-USB chargers and only new chargers which comply with the new European Standards will be considered as a “common charger”.
Some producers are already talking about phones which don't need chargers and could be powered by solar power or electric/radio waves. So why the need for these chargers?
The MoU is based on a technology which is expected to become mainstream in the coming years. However, harmonisation would have to follow technological innovations.
For the time being there is no effective charging facility for mobile phones without a separate charger. There are only some isolated phones that can be charged through solar energy techniques, but they are not a mass product and it is not likely that they will become one. In the EU there is, on average, not enough sunlight to power batteries from a relatively small surface.
Where can consumers buy these new common chargers? And will they be available in all Member States from January 2011?
It is important to keep in mind that the introduction of the common charger will be gradual and depend much on consumers' behaviour and the rate of replacement of old phones. In any case, the end standardisation work allows for the common charger being made available in the first months of 2011 and the main mobile phone manufacturers have engaged themselves to do so. The European Commission will watch closely that this happens.
On the other hand, the European Commission cannot decide on the manufacturer's marketing and distribution strategies, but it is confident that the common chargers will be available to the public through the regular marketing channels during 2011.
Will these new chargers cost approximately the same as other chargers or will they be more expensive?
The European Commission does not have this information and cannot interfere with manufacturer's price strategies. For the European Commission, the cost advantages of common chargers are seen to come from the possibility for consumers to purchase mobile phones without a charger and from the economies of scale which common standards enable.