EU working on proposal to bring back easily replaceable smartphone batteries

EU proposal for easily replaceable phone batteries aims to bring down e-waste; to be presented next month.

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The European Commission is working on a proposal to force smartphone vendors to use easily replaceable batteries with their devices.

Dutch news site Het Financieele Dagblad, which obtained a copy of the EU's plans, says EU officials plan to formally submit their proposal for public discussions next month, in March 2020.

The proposal's goal is to reduce e-waste across the EU by allowing users to replace worn out or malfunctioning phone batteries.

Currently, most phone manufacturers use closed phone cases that prevent users from replacing batteries without voiding their warranty or needing special tools to open the device.

Further, some vendors don't provide batteries as standalone parts to the general public, and replacement batteries are only provided through approved phone repair programs.

This particular practice has resulted in increased levels of e-waste, as companies tend to drive users toward replacing entire devices, rather than a malfunctioning battery.

Things didn't use to be this way, and almost a decade ago, users could easily purchase and replace the battery in almost all smartphones, without being afraid they'd void their warranty or need advanced tools or technical knowledge.

Things changed in recent years as smartphone makers realized they could accelerate smartphone replacement cycles (and indirectly profits) by restricting access to malfunctioning parts, with batteries being the most commonly worn out component.

How the EU plans to enforce its new battery replacement rules remains to be seen.

One way the proposal will not go is by imposing a common battery format. This is not technically possible because most battery models are built for specific phones and come with size restrictions, different connectors, and underlying patented technologies.

The EU's upcoming proposal for easily replaceable batteries comes after last month the EU started work on legislation that would force phone makers to use a common charger technology for all mobile phones.

Both last month's proposal and the one about batteries next month are part of the EU's general effort to reduce e-waste by encouraging better engineering decisions, raw material reuse, and longer-lived devices.