The Empire Strikes Back: Cellular Telephone Industries Association Sues S.F. Over Cell Phone Law

San Francisco’s recently-passed Cell Phone Right-to-Know” ordinance is now officially under attack from Big Wireless.

First the CITA convention boycott of the 415 and now this. Oh well.

The friendly face of the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, aka CITA, The Wireless Association. This fellow has a big beef with our little town:

CITA Vice President of Public Affairs John Walls

His message, in so many words: I mo sue you.

But first, let’s hear from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Via Chief Deputy Communications Director Francis Tsang comes this:


Mayor Gavin Newsom today issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) to block enforcement of San Francisco’s cell phone disclosure ordinance:

“I am disappointed that the association representing the wireless communication industry has decided to challenge our landmark consumer information law in court.  

This law is not an attack on the wireless industry or their products.  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.

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.”

O.K. then. Now, all the deets from CITA:

CTIA-The Wireless Association® Filed Lawsuit Against San Francisco for the So-Called ‘Cell Phone Right-to-Know’ Ordinance

WASHINGTON, July 23 /– Today, CTIA-The Wireless Association® filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California San Francisco Division to block enforcement of the San Francisco “Cell Phone Right-to-Know” ordinance. The ordinance challenges the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) determination that all FCC-compliant wireless handsets are safe by mandating that retailers post Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) values. 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 radiofrequency (RF) emissions.

All phones sold legally in the United States must comply with the FCC’s safety standards for RF emissions. According to the FCC, its standards limit RF exposures well below the level where RF emissions are potentially harmful and thus all wireless phones are safe as measured by these standards. The scientific evidence does not support point-of-sale requirements that would suggest some compliant phones are “safer” than other compliant phones based on their RF exposure test results. San Francisco’s attempt to regulate the sale of wireless handsets improperly intrudes upon the FCC’s exclusive and comprehensive regulation of the safety of wireless handsets. The ordinance is thus not only scientifically unsupported, it violates the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the United States Constitution and must be stricken.

Ever more deets, after the jump

CTIA-The Wireless Association Vice President of Public Affairs John Walls released the following statement:

“CTIA has filed this lawsuit 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. 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 has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are ‘safe.’ 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. 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, ‘[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.’

“In contrast, the message conveyed by the San Francisco ordinance to consumers is that the FCC’s standards are insufficient and that the safety of an FCC-authorized wireless device depends on its SAR level. Therefore, 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 standards.

“The wireless industry is committed to consumer choice. That means providing consumers with the best information to assist them in making the right choice for them when purchasing a device and services.  The San Francisco ordinance, by conveying a misleading impression about the relative safety of wireless phones, will hinder – rather than assist – consumers in making their choices.”

To read CTIA’s lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California San Francisco Division, please visit:

CTIA-The Wireless Association® ( is an international organization representing the wireless communications industry. Membership in the association includes wireless carriers and their suppliers, as well as providers and manufacturers of wireless data services and products. CTIA advocates on behalf of its members at all levels of government. The association also coordinates the industry’s voluntary best practices and initiatives, and sponsors the industry’s leading wireless tradeshows. CTIA was founded in 1984 and is based in Washington, DC

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