New Delhi: In a bid to address e-waste and provide relief to consumers, the government on Wednesday said it will set up expert groups to explore the adoption of common chargers for mobiles and all portable electronic devices. A decision in this regard was taken after an hour-long meeting with stakeholders, chaired by Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh here.
The meeting was attended by Electronics Products Innovation Consortium (EPIC) Foundation Chairman and HCL Founder Ajai Chowdhury; Manufacturers’ Association of Information Technology (MAIT) President Rajkumar Rishi; India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) Chairman Pankaj Mohindroo; Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA) President Eric Braganza; and Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers’ Association (IEEMA) President Vipul Ray.
Lava International Ltd Chairman and Managing Director Hari Om Rai, representatives of industry bodies FICCI, CII, and Assocham as well as from IIT Kanpur and IIT BHU were also present in the meeting held in a hybrid mode.
After the meeting, Singh said: “It is a complex issue. India has a position in manufacturing chargers. We have to understand everybody’s perspective — industry, the users, manufacturers, and environment — before taking a final decision.”
Each stakeholder shared different perspectives and the impact of shifting to a common charger while accepting the need to address the growing environmental concerns of e-waste, the consumer affairs secretary said. Before making a shift, stakeholders felt there is a need to evaluate the impact as India is a manufacturer and exporter of chargers to many countries. They also said it should not be forced upon as maximum people are low-cost feature phone users in India and shifting to a common charger could increase the price of feature phones, he added.
The secretary further said India can initially think of shifting to two types of chargers — USB Type-C and some other charger. Given these complexities, he said, “We have decided to form expert groups to study and submit recommendations within two months.” Separate expert groups, to be notified this month, will be formed to study charging ports used in three segments — mobile and feature phones, laptops and tablets, and wearable electronic devices.
After the meeting, EPIC Chairman and HCL Founder Ajai Chowdhury said a common charger will help address the problem of e-waste. However, the government needs to see how a common charger strategy is feasible as a large market segment still uses feature phones. In the last 4-5 years, there has been a strong movement for USB Type-C (USB C) chargers for most products. Many domestic consumers use feature phones which do not have USB-C ports and that is a challenge, he noted.
Chowdhury said, “In the long run, the USB Type-C charger makes a lot of sense because it has two benefits. It has faster charging and it can be used for multiple products like 65 watts or lower.” According to ICEA Chairman Pankaj Mohindroo, a move to adopt a common charger has been taken by Europe alone, which has 30-35 crore market size of chargers when compared to 200 crores in India for smartphones and other phones put together. The rest of the world is not thinking in this direction.
India, being a major powerhouse in the manufacturing of chargers, is shifting from mobile phone chargers to laptop and e-vehicle charges and this momentum should be maintained. Therefore, a balanced approach is necessary while shifting to a common charger for all mobiles and portable electronic devices, he said.
“We also need to see if it will benefit consumers as rationalisation has already been done. Now, 98 percent of smart phones have Type-C chargers and feature phones have micro-USB. In a way, rationalisation has been done in mobile phones. A common charger has already been established,” he added. Currently, consumers are forced to buy a separate charger every time they buy a new device due to incompatibility of the ports of the existing charger.
Recently, the European Union announced the adoption of a USB-C port common charging standard for small electronic devices by 2024. A similar demand has been made in the US as well.