CTIA files a suit against the city of San Francisco, looking to block a recently approved ordinance that would raise consumer awareness about cell phone radiation levels.
CTIA is suing the city and county of San Francisco in hopes of blocking the
enforcement of the Cell
Phone Right-to-Know ordinance
that the city's Board of Supervisors recently
passed. The ordinance requires cell phone retailers to display, in a manner and
place noticeable to shoppers, the amount of radiation emitted by each phone
The FCC (Federal
Communications Commission) already oversees cell phone radiation emissions, and
manufacturers are already required to disclose each device's specific
absorption rate, or SAR. Under contention is the new focus that the San Francisco ordinance would put on SARs.
has filed this lawsuit to prevent consumer confusion," John Walls, CTIA
vice president of public affairs, said in a statement July 23. "CTIA's
objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone's SAR value at the
point-of-sale suggests to the consumer that there is a meaningful safety
distinction between FCC-compliant devices with different SAR levels."
Walls added that the message
being conveyed to consumers by the San Francisco ordinance is that the FCC's
standards are insufficient. "Therefore," he continued, "the
ordinance contradicts the thorough review of the science by the FCC, FDA and
other U.S. and international expert
agencies, and will send consumers the false message that there is a safety
difference between wireless devices that comply with the FCC's stringent
CTIA, the wireless industry
trade group, filed suit against San Francisco in a U.S. District Court in California.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin
Newsom issued his own July 23 announcement, saying he was "disappointed"
in CTIA's response to the pro-consumer legislation. He described San Francisco as an early adopter of "cutting-edge
communications devices" and the law as not an attack on the industry but a
"modest, common-sense measure" that will help consumers to more
easily find information that's already available to them.
continued, "I am surprised that industry representatives would choose to
spend untold sums of money to fight this in the courts, instead of
cooperatively working with San Francisco to comply with a reasonable
law that provides greater transparency and information without putting any
undue burdens on small businesses or discourage cell phone use in any way."
Despite the FCC's position on
the matter, the effects of long-term cell phone use continue to be called into
question. A 2006 study by the Cleveland Clinic, for example, suggested that more
than 4 hours of cell phone use a day could be damaging to sperm counts
while a 2009 report by the International Electromagnetic Field (EMF)
Collaboration focused on a link between cell phone use and brain tumors. In
January, also citing the possible risk of brain cancer due to electromagnetic
radiation, Maine state Rep. Andrea Boland
proposed a bill to put warning labels on cell phone packaging.
"San Francisco is not ordering businesses
to publish anything particularly controversial or unfounded," Charles
King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, told eWEEK. "I'm at a bit of a
loss as to why [CTIA would] think to pursue this."
King compared the ordinance
to legislation requiring fast-food restaurants to display the caloric
information for certain items on their menus. The SAR information is similarly
available, it's just been "typically buried in paperwork or somewhere on
the company's Website," he said.
Were CTIA to win, "the
end result will be that customers will know less about the products they're
going in to buy," King continued. "From where I'm standing, it's hard
to see [the suit] as anything but a high-priced slap whose goal is to get San Francisco to [reverse its decision]
and other municipalities not to follow San Francisco's lead."
Following the passage of the San Francisco ordinance, CTIA reportedly
announced that it will no longer hold its annual show in the city. According to
the association's Website, its spring 2011 show, which it calls the "largest
and most comprehensive trade show in the wireless industry," is scheduled
to take place in Orlando, Fla.