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EU mandate for a single universal charger could become world standard

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This week, the European Parliament approved new rules that will introduce a single universal charger for a wide range of electronic equipment. That includes iPhones, which currently use a cable specific to Apple devices. Now, the EU has been pushing for a measure like this for a decade. They say this will save consumers money and environmental waste. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Starting next fall, all cellphones manufactured in or for the EU must be chargeable by a single USB-C connector. Computers will have until autumn of 2024 to comply with the new standard. The change had been discussed for years and was prompted by complaints from iPhone and Android users about having to switch to different chargers for their devices.

ALEX AGIUS SALIBA: Ultimately, we will be producing 11,000 tons of electronic waste less every year.

BEARDSLEY: EU parliamentarian Alex Agius Saliba said the effects will be huge.

AGIUS SALIBA: Our consumers will be benefiting because they will be keeping in their pockets more than a quarter of billion euros every year from unused or extra chargers that we are putting on the market. And therefore, this will be beneficial to consumers, to businesses and, also, to our environment.

BEARDSLEY: Apple has been most opposed to the measure, saying it would slow innovation and be counterproductive. European commissioner for internal markets Thierry Breton had a response for that.

THIERRY BRETON: No, it's not at all against innovation. By the way, it's not against anyone. It is just, like everything we do, it's for the consumer.

BEARDSLEY: The measure passed the European Parliament, with 602 votes to just 13 opposed. It had similar backing in this noisy electronic store in Paris. Engineer Geoffrey Vidal says everyone has too many cords and cables to keep up with.

GEOFFREY VIDAL: The USB-C connector is a very good one. It enables fast charging. And to be able to have only one charger and one connecting cable is very practical, and very good for the environment, so I'm for this.

BEARDSLEY: Parliamentarian Agius Saliba said another good point of the legislation is its ripple effect.

AGIUS SALIBA: This bold step that we took as a European Union, its effects will also be felt within other regions and other continents.

BEARDSLEY: In other words, he says, if manufacturers change their product design for the 450 million well-off consumers in the EU, that's likely to soon become the world standard. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.