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The CTIA is arguing that a San Francisco ordinance demanding radiation levels be displayed on phone packaging breaches the First Amendment of the US constitution, and is thus illegal.

Speaking to CNET, the wireless telecommunications organisation claimed that forcing shops to reveal the specific absorption rate (SAR) of phone handsets infringes on the retailers right to free speech by compelling them to mention it. The ordinance requires all San Francisco retailers to provide the information at the point of sale, though it hasn't yet come in to force.

This is a new tack from the industry body who has previously argued that the rules break the US constitution by letting a local ordinance override a federal body (the FCC, which requires handset SAR to be publicly available, but not displayed in store). The CTIA has also argued that more information will just confuse customers, and has relocated its annual trade show from San Francisco to San Diego in protest over the rules.

There is an argument that more information is always a good thing, but counter to that is the idea that too much information will just confuse – and that information without context is worse than useless. The SAR values are already available on the FCC website, for those who are interested, and the CTIA argues that as long as handsets fall below the legally-mandated limit, then sharing the information at the point of sale will be detrimental to the whole industry.

Those labels were supposed to be affixed to every phone sold in San Francisco from May, but that has already slipped forward to 15 June while the complaints are considered. The CTIA also has an ongoing court case against the ordinance, based on the overruling of the FCC, and the council is now considering how to respond to the First Amendment implications. ®

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