Cellphone industry sues Berkeley over radiation warning label law

CTIA wants to unplug Berkeley warning label law on cellphones

A trade group representing the wireless industry is asking a federal judge to stop Berkeley from enforcing an ordinance requiring warning labels about radiation on cellphones sold in the city.

CTIA–the Wireless Assn. claims in a federal suit filed Monday that the city is violating companies’ 1st amendment rights by forcing it to disseminate an opinion it says is false.

The warning is “misleading, controversial, and government-crafted,” and will “stoke fear in consumers about the dangers of cell phones,” the trade group argued in its complaint.

The Berkeley City Council last month unanimously approved a city ordinance requiring that a notice on radio frequency exposure be placed on cellphones that said, in part, “Don’t carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is turned on and connected to a wireless network.”

By doing so, the label says, a consumer could have exposure to radio frequencies at a level that exceeds federal guidelines. The guidelines on how far away to keep a cellphone from a person’s body are already required to come with a phone by the Federal Communications Commission, CTIA said.

In a City Council agenda item from November, Berkeley’s ordinance is explained as merely bringing the government’s guidelines front and center for the consumer and putting it in language a customer can understand.

The ordinance also conflicts with federal regulations, the lawsuit alleges. A Berkeley official said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

This isn’t the first time the wireless trade group has taken a city to federal court over a local ordinance. In 2011, the group sued San Francisco after the city required that a fact sheet on the potential health risks of cellphones be disseminated with new purchases. The law was ultimately dropped.

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