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The Union government has decided that India will finally adopt USB-C as the standard charging port for all intelligent devices. All smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other smart home appliances must be compatible with the Type-C port. The timeline, however, for each of these devices is yet to be decided.

The decision was taken after stakeholders reached a consensus at a meeting of an inter-ministerial task force set up by the Union government, consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said Wednesday. The government held wide-ranging consultations to standardize charging ports for all compatible smart devices, but it is yet to decide on chargers for low-cost feature phones.

With universal chargers and ports, consumers will no longer need a different charger every time they purchase a new device. Besides, the move is also expected to reduce the massive amounts of e-waste.

In 2021, India was estimated to have generated 5 million tonnes of e-waste. According to an ASSOCHAM-EY report titled Electronic Waste Management in India, it was only behind China and the US.

“During the meeting, a broad consensus emerged among stakeholders on the adoption of Type-C as a charging port for electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Further, it was deliberated that a different charging port may be adopted for feature phones,” Singh added.

Many advanced economies are moving towards standardizing charging devices and ports. The EU seeks to make USB-C ports the standard for all devices. On 7 June, the EU passed provisional legislation requiring smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone, to be equipped with a USB-C port for wired charging by mid-2024.

A key concern for India is that once the EU shifts, obsolete phones, and equipment could be dumped here, as has been observed.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by representatives of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology, the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The consumer affairs ministry has also formed a separate sub-group under the task force to examine the feasibility of uniform charging ports for wearable devices, such as smartwatches.

Stakeholders agreed on a phased roll-out of uniform charging port for “effective implementation and easy adoption,” adding: “Industry should overcome inertia in adopting a uniform charging port in the interest of consumer welfare and prevention of avoidable e-waste,” said Singh.

The second official said that the environment ministry would likely conduct an impact study to “assess and examine” the impact of a changeover to a uniform charging port on e-waste generation.

The Union government believes that the country should move to two types of standard charging devices, one for smartphones and various other portable devices such as laptops and tablets, and another for cheaper feature phones, which have a larger market share.

With a policy for standard universal chargers, officials hope phone manufacturers do not need to ship chargers in the box, as consumers will already have the requisite chargers and charging accessories, which would further help them save costs.

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