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FTC charges cell phone radiation shield makers with fraud

Posted: 26 Feb 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:federal trade commission? ftc? comstar communications? electromagnetic? cellular phone?

The Federal Trade Commission took strong action Thursday (Feb. 21) against two companies that sell items described as protecting consumers against radiation from cell phones. The FTC said the companies cannot substantiate their product claims and moved to prevent them from selling those products.

In separate court actions, the FTC charged Stock Value 1 Inc. and Comstar Communications Inc. with falsely representing that their products reduce consumer exposure by blocking up to 99 percent of radiation and other electromagnetic energy emitted by cellular telephones. The commission is seeking permanent injunctions against the two, as well as consumer redress and other equitable relief.

"These companies are using a shield of misrepresentation to block consumers from the facts," said J. Howard Beales III, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "There is no scientific evidence that their products work as they claim."

Stock Value 1, or SV1, was cited for the promotion of its SafeTShield and NoDanger products, metallic fiber patches that are placed over the earpieces of cellular and cordless telephones. The company advertised the products on TV, radio, and in print, and on the Internet. Among the statements in its promotional material, SV1 said: "'NoDanger' is proven to protect the soft tissue of the ear ducts by filtering out 99 percent of the electromagnetic waves emitted from the ear piece of mobile phones up to a frequency of [2GHz]."

Elsewhere, it said, "'SafeTShield' prevents electromagnetic waves from penetrating the brain through the ear duct. 'SafeTShield' blocks up to 99 percent of the electromagnetic waves from penetrating the brain through the ear canal."

Comstar Communications has marketed and sold its WaveShield, WaveShield 1000 and WaveShield 2000 products by stating: "STOP Cell Phone Radiation! with the WaveShield;" "When you purchase a WaveShield for each of your cell phones, you can rest assured you have enhanced the safety of your cell phone use. The WaveShield will block up to 99 percent of the radiation entering the soft tissue of the ear canal;" "The WaveShield 1000 features a soft comfort cushion design, about the size of a penny that adheres to the ear piece of any cellular phone and acts as a cellular protection system. The WaveShield 1000 blocks up to 99 percent of the harmful electromagnetic radiation that enters through the antenna into the unprotected ear canal, without affecting the quality of the transmission."

The FTC's complaints allege that the defendants failed to disclose in their ads that the vast majority of electromagnetic energy emitted by cellular and cordless phones comes from the antenna and parts of the phone other than the earpiece. The defendants also failed to disclose that the WaveShield, NoDanger, and SafeTShield products have no effect on this electromagnetic energy, the FTC said. These facts would be material to consumers' buying decisions, the FTC said.

Both complaints further allege that the two companies had falsely stated that their products had been scientifically "proven" and "tested," which was not the case.

A report released by the General Accounting Office in May 2001 stated: "Scientific research to date does not demonstrate that the radio frequency energy emitted from mobile phones has adverse health effects, but the findings of some studies have raised questions indicating the need for further investigation."

These cases were referred to the Commission by the Good Housekeeping Institute, the consumer product evaluation laboratory of Good Housekeeping magazine. Independent tests conducted by the Good Housekeeping Institute on SafeTShield, WaveShield, and similar products found that the products did not reduce radiation exposure from cellular telephones.

Simple suggestions

The FTC has now issued a new Consumer Alert titled "Radiation Shields: Do They 'Cell' Consumers Short?" The report offers suggestions for cell phone users who want to limit their exposure to their phone's electromagnetic emissions. No scientific proof indicates that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure to electromagnetic emissions, according to the FTC's report, which advises consumers wishing to limit their exposure limit cell phone use to short conversations; increase the distance between the antenna and the head by using a hands-free set or a car phone with a cell phone antenna outside the car; and to avoid using cell phones where the signal is poor.

? Patrick Mannion

EE Times





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