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Cellphone makers beat NDP to punch on standardized chargers

Hundreds of used cellphones and chargers sit waiting to be recycled at a San Diego start-up company, in April of 2010.

MIKE BLAKE/REUTERS

Folks buried under a pile of old electronics are bound to get a charge out of this.

A New Democrat MP has proposed legislation that would require cellphone-makers to create a standardized universal cellphone charger for all new mobile phones sold in Canada.

Trouble is, the industry's already agreed on a universal standard, effective next month.

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Glenn Thibeault, the NDP's consumer protection critic, says it's costly, wasteful and environmentally unsound that most people end up storing or discarding perfectly good chargers every time they buy a new cellphone.

"With the holiday season in full swing, I know many people will be buying new cellphones for their family and friends and the benefits of this change would be obvious," he told the House of Commons on Friday.

Seems the industry couldn't agree more.

"We had previously met with Mr. Thibeault and explained to him that the global cellphone industry agreed to a standardized cellphone charger in 2009," said Marc Choma, spokesman for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

"2012 was set as the goal by when the majority of all new mobile phone models available globally will support a universal charging connector."

There are 14 are global signatories to the agreement, including Apple, Research in Motion, Motorola, Samsung and Nokia.

Mr. Thibeault calls the idea a "simple and cost-effective change that will have positive consequences for the environment, reduce e-waste, and help save consumers money."

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"Canada's cellphone industry obviously shares Mr. Thibeault's environmental concerns," Mr. Choma said in an email.

"In addition to supporting the global effort on a standardized cellphone charger that is already underway, we have had a national cellphone and mobile accessories recycling program in place since 2009."

The program is free – and it accepts old cellphone chargers, regardless of brand or condition.

The agreement was also news to analyst Duncan Stewart who, like Mr. Thibeault, was aware only of a European Union initiative.

"If there's already a global agreement, then there's obviously not much point to a private member's bill," Mr. Stewart said.

"This is the long-term future of the industry. We're going to see more and more of this," he added.

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"It doesn't make a lot of sense to have multiple charger standards. It's not environmentally responsible and, of course, consumers prefer it when there's a single standard, or at least an adapter that allows you to use a standard."

Redundant or not, Mr. Thibeault's proposal may get short-circuited, anyway – private member's bills, particularly those tabled by opposition MPs, rarely make it into law.

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