Impact assessment of a European standard for mobile chargers published
News from Feb. 25, 2020
The European Commission has been working for more than ten years to standardize mobile chargers on the European market. For a legislative proposal, the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs has commissioned a study on the technical options regarding the standardization. Fraunhofer FOKUS was also involved in the recent publication, in addition to IPSOS and Trinomics under the leadership of the Italian consultancy Economisti Associati.
Since 2009, the European Commission has been advocating a binding standard for manufacturers in the field of mobile chargers. Currently, consumers can choose between the discontinued micro-USB connector, its successor USB-C and the Lightning cable. The corresponding adapters also vary from device to device. Since the expiration of the Memorandum of Understanding, a voluntary declaration by the manufacturers of mobile phone devices to standardize chargers in 2014, the European Commission has been striving for a further agreement that takes into account the interests of consumers as well as those of industry and business.
With the present study, the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs would like to analyse the problem and debate possible solutions in a first step, and in a second step evaluate the likely consequences of an initiative to standardise chargers for the environment, industry and science. The research for the “Impact assessment study on common chargers of portable devices” was conducted between January and November 2019.
Innovation versus Standardization
A central question of the study is whether the standardization process associated with a universal charging device represents a threat to future technological development in the field of mobile charging solutions within the European Union. A binding standard could reduce incentives for individual companies to invest in new innovative charging technologies. On the other hand, well-designed regulation can guide or even force companies to invest, introduce innovative processes or bring innovative products to the market.
After weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of all options, the study cannot draw a clear conclusion in favor of one approach. To the authors, establishing a universal cable connection in combination with different but interoperable adapters seems to be the most effective approach to eliminate inconveniences on the user side.