FCC Document Supports Apple in RF Suit

The FCC has weighed in with info supporting Apple in a class action lawsuit alleging the company sold cell phones whose RF emissions exceeded FCC limits. 

The case is Cohen v. Apple and the FCC was asked by the court (the United States District Court of the Northern District of California) for input on the allegations of excessive RF emissions "to better inform the Court on the proper application of its regulation and guidance." 

The plaintiffs base their allegation in part on a third-party test undertaken by the Chicago Tribune. The FCC told the Justice Department, in asking it to file an FCC Statement of Interest document in the case, that independently of the lawsuit, the FCC has tested "many" of the same cell phone models that the Tribune tested and found that they all complied with the commission's RF limits. 

As to the plaintiffs questioning policy judgments the FCC made in creating its testing and certification procedures, the FCC said to the degree the court would have to review the validity of the FCC's 2019 decision to retain those existing procedures, it lacks jurisdiction since that would be the province of an appeals court. It also said any claim that FCC-certified phones are unsafe is preempted because it conflicts with the FCC's conclusion that phones that meet its RF standards pose no health risk.  

Finally, it said, plaintiff claims that Apple should have made additional disclosures about the emissions of FCC-certified phones conflict with the FCC's finding that such "overwarning" could mislead consumers into thinking the emissions are unsafe, so are both preempted as well as beyond the court's authority. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.