The European Union has reached an agreement with mobile phone makers today to create a standardized phone charger that will work across all models and brands. The agreement was reached after the EU told the phone companies that it did not reach a voluntary accord it would force their hand with legislation. And as the phone companies learned from the roaming rate cap battle, Brussels is willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to telecommunications.
Starting next year, new mobile phones will come with the same electrical input socket, mini USB, and they will all come with the same charger (with different prongs for the British Isles and the continent of course). MEPs noted that the new system would make it easier to use someone else’s charger if you’ve forgotten your own, with consumers no longer having to hunt around for a charger that matches the make of their phone.
Commissioner Verheugen demonstrated that difficulty at today's press conference, although perhaps with a bit of exageration!
Of course the main purpose of the change is environmental. Allowing consumers to reuse their old charger with a new phone will cut back on electrical waste
The agreement was reached with Apple, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, which together make up 90% of the EU phone market. Since most of these companies also design phones in the US and the rest of the world, I would assume that this standardization will eventually spread to the rest of the world. After all, why would they make phones with different electrical input jacks specifically for Europe?
While this change probably won’t have a huge impact on anyone’s life, it is interesting to note how quickly the companies responded to the EU’s threat of legislation. It’s clear that in the area of consumer rights, companies have learned a lesson from the roaming rate cap debate. From now on when the EU threatens to use legislation for force a consumer rights issue, companies may quickly decide it’s better to each a voluntary agreement than to dig in their heels and resist, only to be forced to change by legislation later on.