EU rules device chargers must use USB-C by 2026. What it means for U.S. consumers

Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - 3:29pm
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - 7:47am
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Phone, laptop and earbud chargers must use the same USB-C connector for all charging cables by 2026, the European Union agreed this month. A formal approval is expected from European Parliament and the European Council at the end of summer break.

The ruling passed down by the EU earlier this month means manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have just a few years to standardize their devices’ ports.

Because major manufacturers are unlikely to make costly alternate versions of all devices, it’s safe to assume that this ruling will also impact consumers in the U.S. Keep in mind, this ruling applies to the charging cord’s connectors, the shape of the tip at the end that actually plugs into the phone, not the cable itself.

“On the face of it, what this ruling is supposed to do is create a uniformity across things so that people don’t have to buy a different charger for every single device and when they upgrade that device, throw away that charger and have to get a new charger. So, it’s been said that this might reduce waste," said Ted Pavlic.

Pavlic is an associate professor at ASU’s School of Sustainability. While the ruling is aimed at relieving headaches for those of us with several different charging connectors and adapters, he said it could bring on a whole new host of confusion, too.

“We may live in a future where we’re gonna see USB-C, we’re going to see cables that look just like the same cables we’ve seen in the last couple of years. But, what we’re going to find out is that the wall warts and our cables are themselves going to have to continue to be updated," he said. 

Connectors may become standardized and make different cords look like they offer the same charging capabilities. But Pavlic said the wall wart that plugs into a power outlet and the contents of the actual cable are what determine how much and how quickly power is transferred. Those are the parts of the charging cable that will likely keep improving, he said. So, while you may be able to use your current USB-C connector for the phone you have now, it won’t work as well for your new gaming laptop that can handle more power and a faster charging rate.

Pavlic said he disagrees with the notion that e-waste will be reduced. He said in the short-term, more e-waste will be created as users throw away old cables.

“In the long term, it’s a moot point, because the devices that it really is focused on are the low-power devices that are going to go wireless," he said.

Most personal devices must adhere to this ruling by 2026.

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