Cell Phone Industry Suing San Francisco For Your Good, Lawsuit Claims

Categories: Law & Order, Tech

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​Lobbyists from the Cellular Telephone Industry Association are suing San Francisco over the Cell Phone Right-To-Know ordinance, claiming the city is not allowed to make decisions involving the wireless industry. But they're not doing this for them. They're doing it for you.

The industry claims that store labels disclosing phones' radiation output will confuse consumers about which amounts of radiation are healthy and which, supposedly, are not. Such inner conflict will cause "irreparable damage" to the public, the CTIA states in the lawsuit.

If so, perhaps the damage has already been done: Cell phones' emissions are already available online.

The lawsuit states that only the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can regulate cell phone emissions. And the FCC does just this: A federal law exists that prohibits retailers from selling phones with emissions exceeding 1.6 Watts/kg.

"Under well-established federal preemption doctrines based on the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, no state or local government is permitted to regulate the subject matter of RF emissions from FCC-approved cell phones," the lawsuit reads.

It cites a section of the FCC's Communications Act that "prohibits state-imposed conditions on 'entry' to the wireless market, including point of sale 'warning requirements' and labeling requirements."

Basically, the suit claims, the city is not allowed to make any laws having to do with cell phones.

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​Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, says that the lawsuit is not based on a "sound legal theory." Lobbyists' concerns that the labeling might cause confusion among consumers is not a real breach of the constitution.

The city will essentially argue that there's nothing illegal about giving consumers as much information as possible before they buy their next iPhone. It's called, as the ordinance itself attests, a "right-to-know" -- a term that's regularly used for laws mandating disclosure. The city isn't saying the FCC's standard is wrong, or trying to set its own. San Francisco is just asking that consumers be able to see the emissions levels at the time of purchase.

It warrants mentioning, however, that the radiation emitted by a cell phone is not the same sort as the destructive radiation leaking from Chernobyl. U.C. San Francisco radiologist Dr. Fergus Coakley told SF Weekly he thought the city's cell phone law was "bogus."

So, San Francisco's ordinance would give city residents yet another opportunity to ponder unclear health information.

As if we didn't have enough trouble in soda aisles. Thank you, Mayor Gavin Newsom.

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