US needs a common charger, Dems says in letter to Commerce Dept

A group of Democrats in the Senate is calling on the US Department of Commerce to follow Europe’s lead by forcing all smartphone manufacturers to build devices that conform to a universal charging standard.

In a letter dated Thursday to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) — along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – that the department would develop a strategy to provide a common charging port for all mobile devices.

The letter comes a week after European Union lawmakers agreed on new legislation requiring all smartphones and tablets to be equipped with USB-C ports by fall 2024.

“The EU has wisely acted in the public interest by tackling powerful tech companies over this consumer and environmental issue,” the senators wrote. “The United States should be doing the same.”

In the letter, the senators argue that proprietary chargers, such as Apple’s Lightning ports, create unnecessary amounts of e-waste and impose financial burdens on consumers who upgrade devices or who own multiple devices from different manufacturers.

“Year after year, Americans are piling our obsolete chargers in landfills as we spend more money on tech companies for new ones,” Markey said in a statement. The edge on Thursday. “This waste is driving consumers against the wall and driving our planet deeper into a climate crisis. I ask the Department of Commerce to follow the European Union’s lead and look for solutions so that we can save our money, our sanity and our planet.”

Contrary to EU law, the senators are not asking the Department of Commerce to codify USB-C as the universal charging standard. Rather, their request to create ‘a comprehensive strategy’ is broader, leaving room for the department to develop its own standard. Following the EU mandate, critics argued that the rule would stifle innovation and prevent smartphone makers from developing faster charging standards in the future.

Asked if the senators expected a downturn from the tech industry, a Markey spokesperson told reporters The edge, “Big Tech is allergic to regulation and we are already seeing companies curb EU action. Senator Markey believes we must continue to oppose this industry to ensure their interests do not come at the expense of the environment and consumer well-being.”

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