Apple Dodges IPhone Radiation Class Action Suit

(CN) — A federal judge Thursday nixed a class action claiming Apple failed to warn consumers about dangerous radiation from iPhones, finding it has twice demonstrated that its smartphones comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s radiation exposure limits.

Impelled by a Chicago Tribune article indicting iPhone and Galaxy smartphones for surpassing federal safety limits, lead plaintiff Andrew Cohen sued cellphone makers Apple and Samsung in August 2019. Samsung was voluntarily dismissed as a defendant in the case in January.

The plaintiffs commissioned their own independent tests in 2019 and cited tests conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 2017 and French National Frequencies Agency in 2018, all of which found radiofrequency radiation exposure from iPhones exceeded federal safety limits.

In response to the Tribune’s investigation, the FCC’s lab tested commercially-available iPhones as well as a model iPhone at separation distances of five millimeters, pursuant to federal guidelines, finding they fell well within the safety limits. It published the results of those tests in December 2019.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup sided with Apple in a ruling issued late Thursday, since the FCC has broad authority under the Federal Communications Act of 1934 to enact uniform regulations for wireless radio communications devices and any related emissions. 

“If successful, plaintiffs’ claims could set the stage for a patchwork of state-required testing procedures, increasing the burden on manufacturers and thereby upsetting the efficiency that the uniform standards and testing procedures provide,” Alsup wrote.

Alsup also found a jury trial unnecessary, as the FCC’s lab tests indicated that Apple’s smartphones meet its RF exposure standards.

“The Lab found no evidence of violations of the technical standards. Apple’s iPhones have thus demonstrated compliance with its exposure limits not once but twice,” Alsup wrote. “Allowing a federal jury to now second-guess the agency determinations would interfere with the balance struck in the equipment-authorization program. The federal regulations must displace plaintiffs’ claims.”

Attorneys for Apple and the class did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Thursday evening.

The ruling follows a judgment in favor of a wireless industry trade group rendered by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen earlier this year on similar grounds. 

The Cellular Telephone Industries Association had challenged the city of Berkeley’s ordinance requiring cellphone retailers to provide guidance on avoiding radio-frequency exposure. Chen agreed that the FCC’s regulatory actions on radio frequency emissions preempt the local law.

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