Cellphone industry trade group sues Berkeley over new radiation warning ordinance

SAN FRANCISCO – A new Berkeley city ordinance that requires cellphone sellers to warn customers about radiation from the devices violates free speech rights, an industry trade group says in a new lawsuit.

CTIA-The Wireless Association says in the suit filed Monday in federal court that Berkeley would force sellers to convey a message that was inaccurate, misleading, and controversial, and that they disagree with, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday ( ).

Berkeley officials say the warning language in the ordinance was taken directly from manufacturers’ statements and is more limited than a similar ordinance in San Francisco that was later dropped.

“Berkeley’s measure is designed to avoid the legal snares that stopped San Francisco’s effort,” said Charles Burress, an assistant to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

The city would require cellphone retailers to tell customers that they could be exposed to radio-frequency radiation at levels exceeding federal guidelines if they keep their cellphones in their pants, shirt pockets or bras while the devices are switched on and connected to a wireless network.

San Francisco’s ordinance would have required cellphone retailers to tell customers the phones could expose them to dangerous levels of radiation, classified as possibly cancer-causing by the World Health Organization, the Chronicle reported.

The city dropped the ordinance in 2013 after a federal appeals court barred its enforcement. The ordinance had also been challenged by the wireless association.

The group’s lawsuit against Berkeley says the city’s language falsely implies that the federal guidelines are safety limits. They are, in fact, set well below any danger levels, CTIA’s lawyers said.

“According to the federal government, no cellphone model approved for sale in the United States creates a safety concern,” the suit says.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle,