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TECH

What you need to know about the EU’s plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Union has approved a new regulation that would force tech companies to use a standard charger for mobile phones and electronic devices. What does this mean?

What you need to know about the EU's plan for a uniform phone charger
The European Union will require all manufacturers use the same USB Type C for charging ports in certain devices. (Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash)

The European Parliament has approved an agreement establishing a single charging solution for frequently used small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. The law will make it mandatory for specific devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.

The rules have been debated for a while, and the announcement of the agreement has caused controversy, especially among tech companies and enthusiasts. US giant Apple has repeatedly lobbied against the standardisation, saying it halts innovation.

The EU says that the new rules will lead to more re-use of chargers and “help consumers save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases”. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, the bloc says.

So, what exactly are the changes?

Which products will be affected?

According to the European Parliament, the new rules are valid for small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable.

Laptops will also have to be adapted, the EU says.

Those devices will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port regardless of their manufacturer.

When will the changes come?

For most devices, the changes are set to come by autumn of 2024. However, the date is not yet set because the regulations need to go to other proceedings within the EU bureaucracy.

After the summer recess, The EU’s Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before publication in the EU Official Journal. It enters into force 20 days after publication, and its provisions start to apply after 24 months, hence the “autumn 2024” expectation.

Rules for laptops are a bit different, and manufacturers will have to adapt their products to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force of the laws.

Where are the rules valid?

The rules will be valid for products sold or produced in the European Union and its 27 member countries. But, of course, they will likely affect manufacturers and promote more considerable scale changes.

The USB-C cable, with the rounded edges, will be the standard for charging in the EU (Photo by مشعال بن الذاهد on Unsplash)

Why the uniform USB Type-C?

The bloc said the uniform charger is part of a broader EU effort to make products more sustainable, reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.

“European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device”, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said.

USB Type-C is a standard of charging that has been around for a while but still is one of the best options currently in the market. Also known as USB-C, it allows for reliable, inexpensive, and fast charging. A USB-C port can also be input or output, meaning that it can both send and receive charges and data.

Unlike other ports, it can be the same on both ends of the wire (making it easier and more universal in its use). It can also power devices and sends data much faster.

USB-C can also be used for video and audio connections, so some external monitors can charge your laptop and show your screen simultaneously with the same cable.

What criticism is there?

The project is not without criticism, most vocally from US tech giant Apple, a company that famously has its own charging standard, the “lightning” connection.

Apple claims that forcing a standardisation will prevent innovation, holding all companies to the same technology instead of allowing for experimentation. Still, Apple itself has been swapping to USB-C. Its iPads have already dropped the lightning standard. Its newer laptops can now be charged with the MagSafe proprietary connector and USB-C.

Apple iPhones are still charged with the company’s lightning ports – or wirelessly (Photo by Brandon Romanchuk on Unsplash)

The company’s popular earbuds and peripherals (including keyboards and mice) all charge with lightning. And, of course, the iPhone, Apple’s smartphone, also uses the company’s connection for charging.

While there have been rumours that Apple is working on new iPhones with USB-C connection (though definitely not for the next launch this year’s), the company could go away with wired charging altogether. Instead, like many tech manufacturers, Apple is improving its wireless charging solutions, even creating products dedicated to its MagSafe charging.

It won’t be completely free from the EU regulation if it does that, though. This is because the rules approved by the EU also allow the European Commission to develop so-called “delegated acts” concerning wireless charging. The delegated acts are faster processes that can be applied directly without being put to the vote.

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MONEY

France to begin phasing out paper receipts for shoppers

A new French anti-waste law is set to go into effect in the new year, and it could spell the end of paper sales receipts in l'Hexagone.

France to begin phasing out paper receipts for shoppers

If you live in France, or are planning to visit in the new year, you might find your pockets or the bottom of your purse a bit emptier, as the country is doing away with automatically printed receipts (cash register tickets).

As part of a French anti-waste law voted on in 2020, the new regulation, which comes into effect January 1st, 2023, aims to fight “against the dangerous substances present in cash register tickets” and “to remedy the significant waste that these tickets represent,” according to the French government website Service-Public.

According to Service-Public, there are at least 30 billion sales receipts printed each year, creating lots of waste.

Parts of the anti-waste law have already come into effect, outlawing things like single-use plastic cutlery and coffee and cups and limiting packaging on food.

READ MORE: How France’s new anti-waste laws will affect you

The new rules regarding receipts will apply broadly, according to Ouest France, “both large and medium sized stores” across France, as well as “any establishment receiving the public where receipts are issued” will have to respect the anti-waste regulation.

This also includes vending machines and bank card tickets as well, according to Service-Public.

Customers can, however, still request a printed receipt if they would like one. 

Additionally, those who want a record of what they purchased or how much it cost can also request a non-printed receipt – either in the form of an email, text message, or perhaps on their online profile with the store (if they hold a loyalty card).

As for companies’ perspectives, the “Federation of Commerce and Distribution” told Ouest France that French businesses were not “asking for this law,” but “are keen to respect [it]” and that they are committed to reducing their environmental impact.

READ MORE: From takeways to coffee cups: Here’s what France’s new anti-waste law means

Helpful vocabulary

Receipt – ticket de caisse, un reçu

Non-printed receipt/ e-ticket – ticket de caisse dématérialisé

Waste – Gaspillage

Could I please have a receipt printed? – Est-ce que je pourrais avoir un reçu imprimé ?

Could I please have a receipt by text message? Est-ce que je pourrais avoir le ticket de caisse par SMS ? 

Could I please have a receipt by email? – Est-ce que je pourrais avoir le ticket de caisse par mail ? 

I have a loyalty card. Could you please upload the receipt to the online portal/ application? J’ai une l carte de fidélité. Est-ce que vous pouvez envoyer le ticket de caisse dans mon espace personnel dans l’application ?

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