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The EU Common Charger – USBC

The European Commission has introduced legislation that harmonizes charging technology under a common charger. Consequently, many new devices in this market must follow the USB-C standard charging protocol. The announcement accompanies dedicated regulations and relevant amendments, most notably to the Radio Equipment Directive (EU) 2014/53.

A Harmonized Solution to the Power Problem

Consumer electronics are popular products. The 2000s and 2010s saw many exciting advancements: smaller devices, better interfaces, and reliable wireless transmission. As functionality increased, however, so did the need for innovative and sophisticated battery charging systems. This point has remained at the forefront for consumers, manufacturers, and policymakers: how do we solve the power problem?

Consider this: regardless of functionality, we must charge an electronic device before using it. Traditionally, this requires a power cord and supply. Devices charged at different speeds or voltage levels each require a separate solution. On the other hand, devices with similar protocols could use the same cords. This simple truth has helped spearhead massive reforms in European ecodesign for decades.

Road to the Common Charger: A Brief History

Common Charger - digital camera design
30 years of digital camera design (images: Apple, Sony)

The 1990s saw the development of digital cellular networks. These implemented the GSM network protocol standard and spurred the market for affordable mobile phones. At the turn of the century, the RTTE (Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment) Directive 1999/5/EC was the chief document governing such consumer products.

Over the next several years, the Commission broadened its purview with two amendments to the document. Chiefly, they were allowed to monitor new equipment coming into the market. With this information, they may create new equipment classes and facilitate further legislation –a trend that is shared with other families of regulations, like RoHS and REACH.

Road to the USB-C Standard


Personal mobile phones gain market popularity. Personal digital cameras become feasible. Proprietary charging solutions flourish.

Directive 1999/5/EC

Defunct conformity regulation for radio and telecommunications terminal equipment.


Industrial-scale miniaturization. Wireless revolution. The first smartphones enter the market. Types of chargers on the market increase sharply in number.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

Voluntary manufacturers’ agreement to standardize certain aspects of mobile phones, including charging technology.

cord bust


MoU renewal efforts fail, but Commission moves on instead to propose sweeping regulations.

Various directives

EU regulations for specific product classes targeting consumer protection, market cohesion, and ecodesign standards.

Directive EU/2014/53

Market-harmonizing regulation for radio equipment. 


European Commission adopts the Circular Economy Action Plan as part of the Green Deal.

Amendments proposed for regulations (EU) 2014/53 and (EU) 2019/1782

Further recommendations proposed for non-wired (e.g., wireless) charging methods

Technology continued to improve, and existing regulations changed to include more scope and nuance. The first smartphones were sold in the late 2000s and came to dominate the 2010 mobile market. At the same time, the Commission improved regulations for better managing the technological tide. These new measures included:

  • The Low Voltage Directive, a broad set of provisions that encompasses power guidelines for many classes of domestic and industrial equipment;
  • The Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive for harmonizing communication protocols across different networks and spectra;
  • Radio Equipment Directive EU/2014/53, which repealed 1999/5/EC and harmonized radio equipment laws across EU Member States.
Common Charger Cell phone

Notable points about (EU) 2014/53

  • Broadcast receivers incorporated into the scope
  • Better-defined responsibilities and duties for importers and distributors
  • Stricter product compliance monitoring
  • Better controls for identifying and removing non-compliant products

Modern Considerations: Common Charger Regulations

USB ecodesign

In the same fashion, modern devices have continued to become more sophisticated. Manufacturers and legislators have completed another cycle of innovation under Directive (EU) 2014/53, and there is cause once again to redefine our needs as consumers and manufacturers.

The Commission continues to follow these developments. As mentioned, it is responsible for monitoring the market as it changes. Where appropriate, it still exercises its power to redefine the scope and requirements of eligible equipment.

Of course, such legislation can cause lags in production, affecting the economy. Manufacturers are allowed a couple of years between the rollout phases for this set of directives. This common charger transition period allows them time to redesign their charging circuitry and repackage their products for sale within the EU Internal Market.

Clearly, implementing a standard speed and form factor for charging technology is a bold yet beneficial plan. This legislation balances environmental protection with the need to arrest market fragmentation. Most parties also agree that such standardization must not impede further innovation.

Common Charger USB-C
The USB-C Common Charger

What Impacts Does a Common Charger Have?

Circular-Economy - Common charger proposal
  • Twelve classes of products harmonized by the end of 2024
  • Laptops, notebooks, etc. harmonized by 2026
  • Harmonized speeds for fast-charging technology
  • Sets a precedent for similar legislation handling wireless charging methods
  • Saves 1000 tonnes of e-waste annually in the EU
  • Provides more labeling, better choice, and fewer mandatory accessories to consumers
  • Allows industries to consolidate or pipeline certain supply chains
  • Provides a fairer and less fragmented market for suppliers and manufacturers

Make sure your product is compliant with the common charger directives. Contact Enviropass today for a free consultation!