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Why Government Is Pushing For Common Chargers Across All Portable Electronic Devices

The expert groups will submit a detailed report in this regard in the next two months, after studying charging points in smartphones, feature phones, and laptops

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

The government on Wednesday held preliminary talks with several stakeholders of the domestic smartphone industry in a bid to push for common chargers across all electronic devices. After the meeting government decided to set up 3 expert groups that would explore the adoption of a common charger across all portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops. The expert groups will submit a detailed report in this regard in the next two months, after studying charging points in smartphones, feature phones, and laptops. 

Notably, with this move, the government has also hinted that a common charger policy is on cards, saying that the country can initially think of exploring shifting to two types of chargers including C-Type.

HP and DELL opposed the move citing that the original equipment manufacturers are already manufacturing C-Type charging ports for all devices except for feature phones. Others flagged off concerns citing that the charging standards on laptops depend upon their power requirement and hence the laptops are served by multiple charging standards, as per a report by The Economic Times.

Government Tightening Scrutiny Over OEMs For Consumer Protection

The government has cited consumer protection and reducing e-waste to be major reasons for the intent of introducing common chargers across all devices. The government feels that a common charger for all portable devices will lessen the burden on consumers to carry multiple chargers, as well as it will help reduce original equipment manufacturers charging heavy amounts for different chargers.

Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) told Business Standard earlier, “We will be presenting the problem of many consumers that even if they have different devices of the same brand, they need to buy separate chargers. Similarly, if they are using multiple mobiles of different brands, they still have to get separate chargers. This has become a cause of harassment to the consumers.”

“This demand will not be unique to India and we are already seeing such demand being made by users globally. We may recommend a proposal to have a common charger for the basic keypad-based mobile phones. And, the other type of charger can be used for all smartphones, irrespective of their brands. This will also reduce e-waste,” she added.

Right To Repair Framework

Notably, this is not the first time that the government has tightened scrutiny on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Last month, the government formed a committee for the proposed Right To Repair Framework for car and gadget makers in a bid to thwart market monopoly by OEMs. The proposed framework makes it mandatory for car and gadget manufacturers to share the necessary product details with customers and third parties so that the customer will have a choice to fix their cars and gadgets themselves or a third party not registered with the OEMs.

Usually, when customers buy products they are dependent on the OEMs for repair and sale to get the gadget fixed. There is always a threat that customers will lose the guarantee of the product if the gadget gets fixed by a third party, which is not recognized by the manufacturer. Moreover, the customers are charged an exorbitant amount to get their products fixed by OEMs. While manufacturing companies are obliged to disclose the product details, a lack of transparency in this regard by manufacturers not only leads to OEMs monopolizing the market but also retaining proprietary control over the product.

The Department of Consumer Affairs had earlier said in a statement, “The rationale behind the 'Right to Repair' is that when a customer buys a product, it is inherent that they must own it completely "for which the consumers should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at a reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of manufacturers for repairs.”

“The pertinent issues highlighted during the meeting include companies avoiding the publication of manuals that can help users make repairs easily. Manufacturers have proprietary control over spare parts, regarding the kind of design they use for screws and other items. Monopoly on repair processes infringes the customer's "right to choose,” the statement added.

Countries Having Common Charger Policy

The recent move by the Indian government is in line with European Union’s amended Radio Equipment Directive, which introduces common chargers for all portable electronic devices, to make products more sustainable, reduce e-waste, and make consumers’ life easier. Under the new rules, by 2024, the USB Type C will become the charging port across all portable electronic devices in the EU.

As per the new legislation, all portable electronic devices—including small and medium-sized products will have a single charging device and cable. All mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, digital cameras, headphones, and speakers will need to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, whereas all laptops will have to be adapted to the requirement within 40 months after the amendment.

An estimated 11,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated annually owing to disposed of and unused chargers. As per a report by European Parliament, the new legislation will save up to 250 million euro per year on unnecessary charging purchases.

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