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New EU law requires universal USB-C phone chargers by 2024

Written on Oct 7, 2022

The European Parliament has passed a long-awaited law requiring that by 2024 all phones must be compatible with a universal charger. The tech that came out on top: USB-C. 

Establishing a rule around a common charger has been in the works now for 10 years, but the EU only finalized the legislation in June. In the Oct. 4 vote, members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the rule, with 602 votes in favor, 13 against and 8 abstentions. The law will apply not only to phones, but also to tablets, digital cameras, headphones, handheld consoles and most other small devices. Starting in spring 2026, the law will also apply to laptops. 

The idea behind the legislation is to reduce the amount of electronic waste the tech industry generates and help people make more sustainable choices. That means finally saying goodbye to that drawer full of mystery, proprietary charging cables and instead trusting that whatever device you buy, you'll always be able to use USB-C. As part of the new rules, buyers will be able to choose whether their new device comes with a charging cable. 

Most tech companies have already adopted USB-C as a standard charger. Apple is one notable exception. But starting in 2024, at least in Europe, Apple will have no choice but to make iPhones USB-C compatible. Due to the complexity of manufacturing different phones for different markets, it's highly possible that the new law may force Apple's hand and mean that USB-C also becomes the standard on iPhones everywhere. 

Apple has reportedly been testing iPhones with USB-C, but there are some suggestions that the company's ideal solution would be to rely totally on wireless charging, with no ports on the iPhone at all. There are arguments both in favor of and against this approach, but it could ultimately be determined by what the law requires rather than what Apple wants.  

There are still several steps in the EU legislative process that need to take place before the law finally kicks in. The 2024 deadline gives tech companies everywhere over a year to adapt to the new law.