The Acceptance of the EU’s Mandate for USB-C Places Pressure on Apple to Replace the Lightning Connector

Legislation in the European Union mandating USB-C charging for a wide range of consumer gadgets is going progressing. The European Union Parliament ratified the September agreement reached between itself and the European Union Council today.

The next step is for the EU Council to formally ratify the agreement, after which it will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The notification made by the Parliament specified a schedule and other device types that will be impacted. All EU-sold electronic devices that use wired charging and support power delivery of up to 100 W “by the end of 2024,” the European Parliament ruled, must include a USB-C port.

This includes smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, earbuds, portable speakers, handheld game consoles, e-readers, keyboards, mice, and navigation systems.

The statement stated that “from spring 2026,” laptops would be required to include USB-C charging.

The law mandates that all fast-charging devices charge at the same rate. To monitor compliance with this regulation, “specific labels” will be required to describe charging capabilities.

EU member states will have one year from the regulation’s publication to translate the rule into national law, and a further year to comply with the rule. Products issued after this date are not covered by the statute.

With 602 votes in favor, 13 against, and 8 abstentions, Parliament declared victory.

Regulations Regarding Wireless Charging May Come Next

When the European Union (EU) revealed plans to mandate USB-C charging by September 2021, various critics, including Apple, argued that this rule might stifle innovation.

If the European Commission finds new technology to be beneficial, it will work with suppliers to update its regulations to accommodate the advancement. It’s possible that in the future, a charging standard other than USB-C may be required to comply with the EU’s universal charging mandate.

The declaration made by the EU Parliament showed some foresight by briefly mentioning wireless charging, albeit it didn’t say how the EU government may try to control it.

Regulations Regarding Wireless Charging May Come Next
Regulations Regarding Wireless Charging May Come Next

To prevent having a harmful impact on consumers and the environment, the European Commission must standardize interoperability rules by the end of 2024, according to the declaration made by the European Parliament. This would also eliminate the problem of consumers becoming locked into the products of only one company, the so-called “lock-in” impact of technology.

Companies who are dead set against incorporating USB-C into their goods, such as Apple and its iPhones, may be able to get past the EU’s rule by adopting wireless charging. There have been reports that Apple is working on a USB-C iPhone, but the corporation still likes its Lightning connector, and although EU law wouldn’t outright prohibit the use of a proprietary connector, it would mandate the use of USB-C in tandem with it.

However, the expense, worries about data transfer, and fragility of the chassis would make it impractical to have a wirelessly charged iPhone as the only option. The EU government also shows signs of perhaps regulating wireless charging in the future.

Apple has already shown its readiness to accept the oval-shaped connector by charging the latest iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Pro with USB-C rather than Lightning.

“Sustainable Choices”

In its announcement, the European Parliament reaffirmed the EU government’s commitment to reducing e-waste and “empower[ing] consumers to make more sustainable choices” through the USB-C mandate.

The governing body predicts that “increased re-use of charges” would result from the law, which will save customers an estimated 250,000,000 EUR annually by reducing the need for new chargers.

According to the report, “approximately 11,000 tonnes of e-waste yearly (PDF) in the EU is attributable to discarded and unused chargers.”

Other regions have begun examining their own charging regulations for devices, following the EU’s lead. In preparation for a possible USB-C regulation for mobile devices, Brazil has already outlawed the sale of iPhones without a charger and urged Apple to adopt USB-C charging. Legislators in the United States have also advocated for a nationwide standard for charging devices.


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