O2 trials selling phones without chargers

Alex Walls
January 17, 2013

O2 has trialled selling phones without chargers as part of an environmental initiative.

Started in October, the trial involved selling HTC One X+ handsets without the USB wall plug chargers they would usually come with (a micro-USB-to-USB cable was included).  Customers were made aware of the fact that the handset was charger-less and were encouraged to take it without the charger, as well as informed that it was likely they already had the kit required to charge the phone, an O2 spokeswoman said.  Research was based on sales data for both in-store and online sales conducted at point-of-sale and O2 specifically tracked the numbers of phones sold and the proportion of people who went on to purchase a charger separately, she said.

No charger for customers

The pilot aimed to reduce charger wastage, with O2 saying 82% of those who bought the handset without the charger did not buy a separate charger for it.

As above, handsets generally come with a charger and O2’s pilot meant customers who didn’t have the right gear at home, such as previously Apple only customers who wouldn’t have the right USB leads, had to buy a separate charger, where earlier they would have got one in the box (or presumably, go elsewhere for their HTC One X+).  These chargers were offered at cost price, which was £3.47, the spokeswoman said.

The handsets weren’t sold at reduced prices to reflect the lack of charger, due to various reasons, in the main because the financial cost of making chargers was low and because there were costs associated with making specific runs of charger-less phones, the O2 spokeswoman said.  There was no specific information available as to what these costs were, she said.

Education at point-of-sale, both for online and retail, was a key part of the trial and there would be an on-going need to give customers the facts, as well as talk to them about the fact that chargers are now universal if the industry wanted to make phones sold without chargers the norm, she said.

O2 made no additional profit by not including the charger, the spokeswoman said.

“However, as the scheme will continue, and more phones are sold without chargers, there will be some costs savings from more efficient transport, reduced resource use, less manufacturing etc, in which those savings will eventually be passed on to customers.”

Environmental savings

O2 said  with 30 million new phones sold in the UK each year, if the results were repeated with all handsets, there would be 24 million chargers fewer sold annually in the UK. Chief executive Ronan Dunne said the results of the trial, with more than four in five customers willing to buy a new phone and use existing charging devices, showed a willingness among consumers to consider and respond to the environmental argument for taking a phone without a charger.

“I now hope that as a result of this study the rest of the industry will now consider joining us in our campaign to take chargers out of the box for good.”

Research suggested there were as many as 100 million unused chargers in total in the UK that were either duplicates of existing kits or were from old handsets, O2 said.  This meant a total of 18,700 tonnes of components, 124,274 miles of copper wire and plastic covering and a volume of landfill equivalent to four Olympic swimming pools if all were thrown away.

HTC director of the UK Phil Roberson said the company had been encouraged by the numbers of people taking the handset without the charger.

“This pilot demonstrates that, if we inform our customers about the environmental impact of wasted phone chargers and the benefits of using the chargers and mains adapters that they already own, they respond positively to the message.”

O2 has said it will supply phones charger-free by 2015 to cut down on environmental waste that spare and redundant chargers create.

Mr Dunne said the trial was evidence that customers were prepared to amend their purchasing decisions if they had more choice and more information.

“The lesson for the industry from this pilot is that consumers are very receptive to the message that they can benefit the environment by avoiding the needless purchase of chargers.  I would now like to see others taking similar steps, working with us as we aim to ensure all our handsets are sold charger-free by 2015.”

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