CTIA on Friday said it filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California San Francisco Division to block enforcement of San Francisco's "Cell Phone Right-to-Know" ordinance.
The ordinance, which requires San Francisco retailers to post the specific absorption rate (SAR) of phones next to their price and features, challenges the FCC's determination that all FCC-compliant wireless handsets are safe, the association says. "The ordinance misleads consumers by creating the false impression that the FCC's standards are insufficient and that some phones are 'safer' than others based on their radio frequency (RF) emissions," CTIA said.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he's disappointed the association decided to challenge the "landmark consumer information law" in court.
"This law is not an attack on the wireless industry or their products," he said. "San Francisco is proud to be a magnet for technological innovation and an early adopter of cutting-edge communications devices. This is a modest, common sense measure which merely takes information already made available by these companies and makes it more accessible and easier to find by the point-of-sale consumer."
After the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance in June, CTIA said this fall's Enterprise & Applications trade show would be the last time it is held in San Francisco. Earlier this month, CTIA announced its fall trade show in 2011 and 2012 would return to San Diego – currently perceived as a more wireless-friendly town and home to Qualcomm and numerous other wireless companies and industry endeavors.
CTIA says all phones sold legally in the United States must comply with the FCC's safety standards for RF emissions, and San Francisco's attempt to regulate the sale of wireless handsets improperly intrudes on the FCC's exclusive regulation of the safety of wireless handsets. The association argues that the ordinance is not only scientifically unsupported, but also violates the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.
CTIA vice president of public affairs John Walls said the lawsuit is designed to prevent consumer confusion. "The problem with the San Francisco ordinance is not the disclosure of wireless phone SAR values – that information is already publicly available," he said. "Consumers can learn a device's SAR value from a number of public sources, and the value is often included in user manuals and listed on the websites of manufacturers and the FCC. 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."
The FCC monitors scientific research on a regular basis, and its standard for RF exposure is based on recommended guidelines adopted by U.S. and international standard-setting bodies, the statement added. "Furthermore, according to the experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the available scientific evidence shows no known health risk due to the RF energy emitted by cell phones. As the FDA states on its website, 'the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.'"
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors' ordinance says SAR values for different makes and models of cell phones differ widely, but consumers are not able to make informed purchasing decisions because there is no requirement that the retailer provide the applicable SAR values at the point of sale. It also notes that while cell phones are an important communication tool, especially during emergencies, radiation exposure can be reduced by using a speakerphone or a headset or by sending text messages.