Apple has been thrown a hot potato at them by the European Union (EU) with new legislation being approved regarding USB Type-C charging devices under a new single phone charger law.

USB Type C connector

The changes will be challenging to say the least, and Apple has already vented their anger at the proposal months ago and will continue to do so. The new legislation is to condense the market, make things simpler for the consumer, and alleviate waste; however, Apple thinks to the contrary. In Apple's EEDC 2022 keynote—Apple announced wide-ranging new features to product lines, such as the following:

  • iOS
  • iPadOS
  • macOS
  • watchOS
  • Plus, a redesigned MacBook Air

With the new ruling in by the EU, it will force Apple to use the same charger throughout all its smartphones, tablets and laptop models sold within the European Union. The landmark decision was approved by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Tuesday, 7th June.

The EU member states agree that using single cables throughout all devices will not only cut back on wastage and pollution but also energy usage, but Apple disagrees. Their take on proceedings is that it will slow down innovation and create further pollution. The central part of the new legislation regarding the USB Type-C will come into effect in late 2024. Charging for portable devices; however, such as laptops will be given more time. Included in the USB Type-C charging rule, headphones, digital cameras, portable speakers, headsets, and E-readers are all-inclusive of this new law.

a figure of a man standing on a type-c charger

If this seems like new news, it certainly is not to the EU or Apple. This ruling is the culmination of over a decade of pushing from the European parliament. Last September was the final push and proposal set forth to bring this to a definitive conclusion. The minor issue is getting this fully ratified by all EU member states and the European Parliament before it can come into effect. Getting everything approved by the EU can prove challenging at times, as the recent proposal to cut ties with Russian oil and gas was vetoed by Hungary, which is hugely dependent on it.

Also, a trade agreement with South America took 19 years before it was finally ratified, so we may not have heard the end of this matter yet. However, this is by far the furthest the EU has come in pushing Apple to change. Theirry Breton, the EU internal market commissioner, commented, "We have been able to it in nine months, that means we can move fast when there is political will”.

The EU covers 27-nations with over 450 million people, and within those countries lies some of the world's wealthiest consumers. The imposition of the single phone charger law could considerably change this market's dynamic. Alex Saliba (MEP) went on to add, "This is a rule which will apply to everyone," he was the lead negotiator. "If Apple ... or anyone wants to market their product, sell their products within our internal market, they have to abide by our rules, and their device has to be USB-C," he said.

Also stipulated in the ruling is that consumers will be given an option to opt-out of acquiring a new charging cable when purchasing a new device.

Here are the "Key Points":

  • Consumers and politicians in Europe have been lobbying for this change for over a decade
  • Apple has suggested this would stifle innovation and create mountains of e-waste around the world
  • The ruling will also have a ripple effect on Samsung, Oppo, Huawei and others
  • Apple will have to abide by using the same charger for their laptops, smartphones, and tablets sold within the EU. An effect that could impact the global market

AUSTRALIA

The full effect this will have on the Australian market cannot yet be quantified, but an impact there will be. Australia is one of the world's most significant Apple users per capita:

Apple in Australia - Percentage Market Share
(Australia's Mobile Vendor Market Share - May 2022)

  • Apple 57.7%
  • Samsung 27.84%
  • Oppo 3.62%

Mobile vendor market share Australia 2022

Apple's sales of Smartphones sales were 9 percent lower in their quarterly reporting for Q1 2022 compared to 2021. This is a surprising statistic considering that the global outlook is slightly more positive than a year ago. So this will prove a difficult time for Apple and their legal team to overcome as the estimates from the EU make sense on the outlook of their mandate.

The European Commissions' move equates to charging being more convenient for the user and reducing the environmental consequences of too many chargers. The EU claims that 11,000 tonnes of e-waste are currently disposed of yearly worldwide. With the EU being one of the largest consumer markets in the world, it is a serious consideration for all 27-members states to deliberate.

With innovations coming to the fore with recycling, Apple can fight as we know they are likely to, but not having to recycle in the first place would seem a more sensible solution. The law would, in turn, cause manufacturers to offer new devices without chargers as standard, as the new common standard would equate to many households already having them. They state the new format will reduce e-waste by around 1000 tonnes annually throughout Europe. However, that still leaves 10000 tonnes annually outstanding as laptops don't yet fall into the 2024 legislation. Suppose this initial law is approved and the EU gets it ratified. In that case, it will be interesting to see where the other devices, such as laptops and others, can fall into this category post-2024.

SUMMARY

What the EU is doing does seem on the surface to make sense, and Apple should have an uphill battle on their hands, but the situation is complex as to waste and what is and what is not recycled. Though I'm sure in most households in Australia, at least once you've said, 'The charger doesn't fit!' So if nothing else, maybe post 2024, that won't be a problem anymore.