Universal phone chargers: Say no to overcharging

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  • Updated:4 Feb 2010
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01 .Universal phone chargers


How many mobile phone chargers have you had in your lifetime? A quick straw poll here at CHOICE found that on average, each of us have had five phone chargers. Some admitted to having nine – including staff members who claim not to be concerned about keeping up with the latest trends in mobile and smartphones.


Across Australia – and the planet – this adds up to a huge amount of e-waste, not to mention the annoyance of automatically receiving what may well be an unnecessary charger every time you purchase a new mobile phone. Every charger does the simple job of juicing up your phone with energy – so why won’t manufacturers come up with a single charger that works for multiple phones?

Case study: Finding the right charger

Phil is a senior registered nurse at a major Sydney hospital. On his ward, staff often need to charge patients’ mobile phones. They keep 10 different chargers, all of which have been left behind by patients and never claimed, in a backroom for this purpose.


Recently, Phil needed to contact the next-of-kin of a new patient who couldn’t talk or write for herself. The 93-year-old patient did have a mobile phone, but it had a flat battery. To Phil’s exasperation, none of the 10 chargers he had could do the job. (Luckily, the patient’s niece tracked her aunt to the hospital and arrived later that day .)


Universal chargers are coming

Last October, the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) approved a voluntary standard for universal phone chargers. This will allow the same charger to be used, regardless of a handset’s make or model.


 According to the ITU, under the standard chargers will also become more energy-efficient. Over time, the standard is expected to lead to fewer chargers produced, transported and thrown out. Consumers will benefit from being able to charge their mobiles anywhere from an available charger. The ITU says many companies have agreed to comply with the standard for new products by 2012, including 3 Group, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Telstra and Vodafone.



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Following on from our latest test of smartphones, we’re pleased to notice that all the phone manufacturers cited are on the ITU’s list of companies preparing to follow the standard from 2012 – all, that is, except Apple, Blackberry and HTC.


We’ve written to the CEOs of all these companies, asking them to sign on to the standard and help lighten the e-waste load. We’ve also sent a copy of our letter to Al Gore, who happens to be on Apple’s board of directors. As one of the world’s highest-profile environmentalists, we’re pretty sure he’ll want to know about universal chargers and take appropriate action. We’ve alerted Consumers International too, inviting 220 consumer bodies from 115 countries to apply the pressure worldwide.


Now we need your help. Join us in urging Apple, Blackberry and HTC to get on board with universal phone chargers.


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