Legislators in the European Union are taking tech companies, especially those involved in making and selling smartphones and tablets, to task over greenwashing and how they contribute to e-waste. Environmentalism seems to have become a high priority in the continent, with several countries having faced a summer of extreme heat waves.
Lawmakers in the EU are pushing for regulations enabling regular consumers to use their smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices for extended periods. For example, the EU is proposing to sign a proposal into law that would require smartphone brands to ensure that for each new device that they introduce to the market; they have to provide at least 15 different parts that are readily available to service centers as well as repair shops, for at least five years.
The EU is also working on proposed legislation to make smartphone brands commit to at least five years of consistent and on-time software updates. Both of these legislations are a great way to deal with planned obsolescence, a practice in which tech companies often downgrade the performance of their existing phones using software updates or simply not providing key components that would be essential to repair a device. Companies like Apple and Samsung have often been accused of indulging in these practices as a matter of policy.
Apple’s infamous Batterygate Scandal would be a perfect example of planned obsolescence. In Battergate, Apple would deliberately start underpowering its iPhones as they got older to preserve battery life.
The reason why it became a scandal was that Apple kept this practice hidden for years. Users, meanwhile, always suspected that older iPhones, especially after the launch of a new device and the subsequent update, would feel sluggish and slower. Only after a few users used benchmarks to prove that older iPhones were indeed getting slower did Apple admit that they have been doing this for years because their batteries wouldn’t be as healthy as when they were new. Subsequently, Apple started allowing users to choose between better performance and the better battery life after they replaced the batteries in some of the iPhones.
The European Union is also coming up with standards to ensure that essential quality is maintained for batteries. Smartphone brands have been given a choice of either letting users change the batteries on their own, just like most older Android devices or having a minimum quality wherein they would have to survive at least 500 charging cycles without deteriorating below 83 percent.
To tie all this up neatly in a manner in which consumers would easily understand just how a smartphone device is built, the EU is also proposing a rating and a label system that would show figures such as battery life, battery quality, how many charging cycles they can expect before getting it replaced, how easily can a device be repaired, and their IP rating. These figures would be determined by standardized tests that all devices must be put through.
A system like this would not only set smartphone brands that make their smartphones more ethical and consumer-friendly, but it would also push them to adopt consumer-friendly policies. Furthermore, it would drive regular users towards smartphones that can be used for a more extended period, thus reducing e-waste. Electrical appliances in the EU already come with such labels.