Why the government is pushing for common chargers for all portable electronics

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

Notably, with this decision, the government has also hinted that a common charger policy is on the cards, saying the country may initially consider switching to two types of chargers, including the C-Type.

HP and DELL objected to the move, citing that original equipment manufacturers already manufacture Type-C charging ports for all devices except feature phones. Others have raised concerns citing that laptop charging standards depend on their power needs and therefore laptops are served by multiple charging standards, according to a report by The Economic Times.

Government tightens review of OEMs for consumer protection

The government cited consumer protection and reducing e-waste as the main reasons for the intention to introduce common chargers on all devices. The government believes that a common charger for all portable devices will reduce the burden on consumers of carrying multiple chargers, and will also help cut down on original equipment manufacturers who charge hefty amounts for different chargers.

Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), told Business Standard earlier: “We will present the problem of many consumers who, even if they have different devices of the same brand, must buy separate chargers. Likewise, if they use several mobiles of different brands, they must always obtain separate chargers. It has become a cause of harassment for consumers.

“This demand will not be unique to India and we are already seeing such demand from users around the world. We can recommend a proposal to have a common charger for basic keypad mobile phones. And, the other type of charger can be used for all smartphones regardless of brand. It will also reduce e-waste,” she added.

Framework of the right to repair

Notably, this isn’t the first time the government has tightened its control over original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Last month, the government formed a committee for the draft Right to Repair framework for car and gadget makers in a bid to thwart market monopoly by OEMs. The proposed framework obliges car and gadget manufacturers to share necessary product details with customers and third parties so that the customer has the choice of repairing their car and gadgets themselves or a third party not registered with OEMs .

Usually, when customers buy products, they depend on OEMs for repair and sale to fix the gadget. There is always a threat that customers will lose product warranty if the gadget is repaired by a third party, which is not recognized by the manufacturer. In addition, customers have to pay an exorbitant amount to have their products repaired by OEMs. While manufacturing companies are forced to disclose product details, a lack of transparency in this regard on the part of manufacturers leads to OEMs not only monopolizing the market, but also retaining exclusive control of the product.

The Department of Consumer Affairs previously said in a statement: “The rationale for the ‘right to repair’ is that when a customer purchases a product it is inherent that they must own it entirely” for which consumers should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at a reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of the manufacturers for repairs.

“Relevant issues highlighted at the meeting include companies avoiding the publication of manuals that can help users easily carry out repairs. Manufacturers have exclusive control over spare parts, regarding the type of design they use for screws and other items.The monopoly on repair processes violates the customer’s “right to choose,” the statement added.

Countries with a common charger policy

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

According to the new legislation, all portable electronic devices, including small and medium-sized products, will have a single charger and a single cable. All cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, digital cameras, headphones and speakers will need to have a USB Type-C port, while all laptops will need to be upgraded to the requirement within 40 months following the change.

It is estimated that 11,000 tons of e-waste is generated each year due to discarded and unused chargers. According to a report by the European Parliament, the new legislation will save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary purchases.

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