'UK not copying EU on USB-C chargers is just the latest way Brexit will screw consumers'

9 June 2022, 14:06 | Updated: 9 June 2022, 14:12

The EU has ruled that all smartphones and other small electrical devices must have USB-C chargers
The EU has ruled that all smartphones and other small electrical devices must have USB-C chargers. Picture: Alamy
Will Guyatt, technology correspondent

By Will Guyatt, technology correspondent

I know my place – I’m LBC’s tech correspondent - I leave all the tricky political stuff to learned colleagues like Theo Usherwood and my spirit animal, James O’Brien – but for the last 23 hours I’ve been repeatedly scratching my head.

Why on earth is our government refusing to adopt what appears to be the most sensible piece of EU law I’ve heard of in a long time?

Admittedly – for many of you, the thought of the European Union ruling on what kind of charger your mobile phone needs might appear trifling, but when you start looking at the bigger picture, you have to start wondering whether Boris has been to another party.

After years of debate, the EU has finally ruled that all smartphones and other small electrical devices, stuff like handheld games consoles, cameras and the like will need to adopt the USB-C standard from 2024. Without getting too nerdy, USB-C is the best universal solution right now – it’s easy to plug the cable in, lots of devices use it, and aside from powering up a device, it has plenty of speed to transfer information off the device to whatever you’ve attached it to.

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Until now, various tech companies like Apple have been loudly protesting that switching away from their own proprietary cables like Apple’s Lightning – that’s used on their smartphones and some tablet models would stifle creativity and innovation.

Apple’s objections appeared to weaken when they started using USB-C as the charging standard on many of their own laptops.

The EU’s reasoning for the switch is pretty clear – they reckon around £200m is spent every year on charger cables and related kit every year, with approximately 11,000 tonnes of chargers and cables being dumped across the continent every year – as people update their tech and chargers.

In 2022, this is a bigger win for the planet than it is consumers, because the reality is that most tech companies have been moving towards USB-C because it’s actually a really good, versatile solution.

That last sentence alone is probably reason alone for the UK rejecting the law – but opting out has the potential for other headaches. Under the letter of the law, England, Wales and Scotland could live in a USB-C free future, while Northern Ireland gets to enjoy the unbridled joy of having every device using one charging standard to rule them all. In turn, we all suffer if Apple doesn’t roll over, and ensure everyone gets a USB-C version.

We’re getting pretty good at dumping really good EU tech related laws – they did us all a solid several years back by finally banning the scourge of roaming charges, and unnecessary expense that made many holidays miserable.

We’ve all heard the story – like the person who only spent two minutes downloading Steve Allen’s Little Bit Extra podcast and found themselves having to cough up £450 for the privilege.

Thanks to Brexit – roaming charges are back for Brits, and the mobile networks are making it really hard to understand how we’re impacted.

Each network has different rules, with some varying costs between their own tariffs, but in short – if you haven’t checked with your provider before you go overseas this summer, you could find yourself with more than sunburn and a hangover on your European trip.

And before you all start tweeting and suggesting I’m a remoaner – this isn’t a political viewpoint, it’s an actual fact - Brexit continues to stuff the consumer. And let’s see how happy you are when you get charged for your using your phone in Benidorm.