US government may intervene in European Apple-EU battles with a common charger

The European Union’s competition commissioner may force Apple to come up with common chargers for smartphones and tablets. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, speaking at the annual IFA tech show in Berlin on Saturday, revealed that …

The European Union’s competition commissioner may force Apple to come up with common chargers for smartphones and tablets.

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, speaking at the annual IFA tech show in Berlin on Saturday, revealed that the European Commission has been asking for a common charger “from 2011,” and that the technology and development had been derailed. Although Apple has modified the common charger and applied to patent design, Vestager didn’t say when she will make a decision. The consumer electronics industry in Europe could benefit from such a move, which would keep prices low, thereby helping to support innovation in the industry.

For US companies such as Apple and Samsung, the common charger would lessen the need to license patents for circuit designs to third-party makers.

We don’t know how much of an impact, if any, any measure like this would have on Trump’s tariffs, which are in some cases more severe than the penalties Europe sought against Apple. European Commission competition policy official Gianni Merlo said after the event that the merger of Qualcomm and NXP Semiconductors, one of the companies targeted by the EU, was a factor in the Commission’s decision to take action against the companies, something Trump’s team is also challenging in court.

In a September note to investors, global investment bank Credit Suisse said that a move by the European Commission may seem long overdue. Most consumer electronics manufacturers use the exact same charging standard for both European and US markets. “Theoretically, you could say that it should not be the user who sets the charging standard, it should be a consumer electronics manufacturer,” said Amit Hooper, a partner at CLSA, in a recent interview with Sky News. “I don’t know what happens if they leave it to the market; I think that’s less likely, but it’s not impossible.”

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