BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Top mobile telephone suppliers have agreed to back an EU-wide harmonization of phone chargers, the European Commission said on Monday, hailing the pact as good news for consumers and the environment.
The agreement by Nokia, Sony Ericsson and other industry majors will mean phones compatible with standard charging devices are available in Europe from next year, said the EU executive, which has pushed for such a deal.
"People will not have to throw away their charger whenever they buy a new phone," said EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, estimating that unwanted phone accessories accounted for thousands of tons of waste in Europe each year.
The Commission said the agreement would involve the creation of an EU norm, and that the new generation of mobile phones would use a standard micro-USB socket to ensure compatibility.
There are an estimated 400 million mobile phones in Europe, with 185 million bought each year.
The chargers will be usable only for data-enabled phones, which have more capability than just standard calls and SMS texts. Data-enabled phones are expected to account for almost half of all new mobile handset purchases in 2010.
The Commission hopes that as people discard their old handsets, within three to four years all data-enabled phones in Europe will be using standardized chargers.
New data-enabled phones will come with a standardized charger but after an unspecified time the two items will be sold separately, industry group DigitalEurope said.
The director of DigitalEurope, Bridget Cosgrave, said the price of such chargers had not yet been determined.
Motorola, Apple, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and Texas Instruments have also signed the agreement, the Commission said.
The 10 companies involved control 90 percent of the European market.
The standardized chargers will be compatible only with European phones, but Verheugen said he hoped other countries would follow Europe's lead.
"We're assuming this new European initiative will have a knock-on effect globally and manufacturers won't just be doing this on the European market," Verheugen said.
Reporting by Mark John and Caroline Linton; Editing by Dale Hudson