GO
Loading...

Could Apple be forced into charger redesign by EU?

The Apple Inc. iPhone 5 and phone charger.
Ian Waldie | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Apple Inc. iPhone 5 and phone charger.

Apple could be forced to scrap its iPhone chargers under EU plans to make a universal phone charger law.

Under the proposals, mobile phone manufacturers would have to make devices compatible with the universal charger which would hit companies like Apple who have their own design.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament's consumer protection committee said radio equipment devices and their accessories should be "interoperable" to reduce costs to consumers.

"We urge member states and manufacturers finally to introduce a universal charger, to put an end to cable chaos for mobile phones and tablet computers", said German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Barbara Weiler in a statement.

(Read more: EU plans to end roaming fees to hit telcos from 2014)

Some companies including Nokia and Samsung signed up to a voluntary deal with the EU to use Micro-USB standard chargers in 2009, but the rules were not law. The chair of the consumer protection committee said the rules need to go further.

"The voluntary agreement among manufacturers to produce mobile phones compatible with universal chargers is not delivering its full potential," British MEP Malcolm Harbour told CNBC.

"This (new law) would be of high practical benefit to consumers, delivering furthermore cost savings, as well as reducing electronic waste."

The consumer committee adopted the proposals unanimously with 35 votes in favor.

(Read more: Europe is strangling the telecom industry: CEO)

But Benedict Evans, an analyst at Enders Analysis, said that companies have "legitimate reasons" for using different chargers.

Apple uses a wider charger for bigger devices such as the iPad, and the mini USB for the latest iPhones.

If the rules are adopted into law, it could threaten product design, Evans told CNBC.

"That outcome would be insane because you are moving away from helping consumers to interfering in product design.

"I think there is a balance you need to strike. There are clearly benefits for having the same charger. However, there are occasions where Apple or Samsung feel that in order to make the best possible product they need to do something slightly different and in most cases that should be for the market to decide," he said.

(Read more: Is the Gordon Gekko look coming back?)

Apple, one of the main companies that would be hit by this reform, already sells adaptors that would conform to the EU's demand for Micro-USB chargers, but it is unclear if this would satisfy the rules.

Some analysts say the move would not have a significant impact on the device manufacturing industry, and that the "EU is moving slower than the market" because many models already have standardized chargers.

"Almost all phones on the market support Micro-USB. In terms of what effect this has on the market this is not a great deal," Ian Fogg, head of mobile analysis at IHS Electronics and Media, told CNBC.

The consumer protection committee will decide at a later date whether to start negotiations with member states to discuss the details. It will then take it to Parliament for a vote.

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal

Featured

Contact Technology

  • CNBC NEWSLETTERS

    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    › Learn More

Squawk Alley