France eyes new regulation to restrict early renewal of smartphones

PARIS (Reuters) - France is weighing possible regulation to restrict the early renewal of smartphones via commercial offers by telecoms operators in a bid to lower the environmental impact of connected devices, a government official said on Tuesday.

French telecoms operators Orange, Bouygues Telecoms and Altice Europe’s SFR have for years been luring new customers by providing brand new smartphones in exchange for contractual commitments for a certain period of time, up to two years.

These commercial offers entice customers to upgrade their smartphones while their previous one is still working, the French government says in a roadmap on “tech and environment” issued on Tuesday.

“We’re ready to adopt new measures,” the government official said, without elaborating. “The aim is clearly to increase the life of terminals,” the official added, referring to smartphones.

The official said that the government will first ask the French telecoms authority Arcep to review the telecoms operators’ contract offers to determine if and how they might accelerate the change of smartphones.

“We’re not commissioning this review to waste time, it’s clearly to have the means to make a decision,” the official said.

The French government estimates that 75% of the negative impact on the environment due to the digital sector stems from the making of devices. This includes CO2 emissions and the consumption of water and other natural resources.

The French government is also asking Arcep to review which environmental criteria could be tied to the allocation of future mobile frequencies in the 26 GHz band, the next crucial development in the ramp-up of the new generation of mobile internet, or 5G.

It will also ask the watchdog to define and collect a new set of data to assess the environmental impact of telecoms operators as well as “major digital players” on the environment, it said.

(This story has been refiled to remove extraneous tag from headline, no change to content of story)

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama