A group of Senate Democrats have come together and called upon the US Commerce Department to follow suit with the European Union by rolling out laws that force smartphone manufacturers to build devices that stick to a universal charging standard.
In a Thursday letter addressed to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Sen. Ed Markey along with other senate leaders called on the department to develop a strategy that makes it compulsory for all mobile devices to have a common charging port. The letter addressing the US Commerce Department comes a week after the EU lawmakers enter new legislation that requires all smartphones and tablets to stick to a common USB-C port by 2024. Sen. Ed Markey wrote in his letter that “The EU has wisely acted in the public interest by taking on powerful technology companies over this consumer and environmental issue, the United States should do the same.”
The senators disclosed that an unnecessary amount of e-waste is caused by proprietary chargers, like Apple’s Lightning ports, which further impose financial burdens on consumers seeking to upgrade devices or own devices from other manufacturers. Makey further disclosed that “Year after year, Americans pile our outdated chargers onto landfills while we shell out more money to tech companies for new ones. This waste is driving consumers up the wall, and it’s driving our planet deeper into a climate crisis. I’m asking the Department of Commerce to follow the lead of the European Union and look into solutions so that we can save our money, our sanity, and our planet.”
Although what the senators are asking for is quite similar to that of the EU, they are both different. The EU law demands the USB-C as the universal charging standard by 2024 while the request of the US Senators is broader to create “a comprehensive strategy,” leaving room for the Commerce Department to develop its own standard. Following the EU mandate, critics have argued that the practice would stifle innovation as smartphone manufacturers wouldn’t be able to adopt advanced and faster-charging standards in the future.
On the issue of if the senators are expecting a pushback from the tech industry, when asked a Markey spokesperson replied saying, “Big Tech is allergic to regulation, and we’re already seeing companies push back on the EU’s action. Senator Markey thinks that we have to continue to stand up to this industry to make sure their interests don’t come at the expense of environmental and consumer wellbeing.”