Can't find a case on our website? Search our new case database for access to hundreds of open and closed cases.
Government can’t force businesses to “disclose” unsubstantiated theories with which they disagree
CTIA - The Wireless Association v. City and County of San Francisco
Contact: Deborah J. LaFetra
Status: Victory! A favorable decision issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 18, 2012.
The City of San Francisco’s “Cell Phone Disclosure” Ordinance requires cellular phone retailers to put up posters in their stores, attach stickers to cell phone displays, and distribute “fact sheets” to customers, all of which advise consumers about the supposed risks of radio-frequency (RF) emissions. Although repeated scientific studies have shown that RF emissions pose no significant risk to cell phone users, the City forces retailers to disseminate the warnings as a precaution against any possible cancer risk that RF emissions might entail. It is a precaution based on mere conjecture, however, because not only has no study found a connection between cell phone RF emissions and cancer, but the City admits it has no evidence that RF emissions cause any harm whatsoever.
CTIA - The Wireless Association, a wireless telecommunication industry trade group, challenged the ordinance on First Amendment grounds. On October 27, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California partially enjoined the Ordinance, finding the poster and sticker requirements unconstitutional, but upholding the “fact sheet” requirement so long as the City made specific changes dictated by the court.
Both sides have appealed. As amicus in support of CTIA at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, PLF argues that government may not compel speech in the name of “disclosure” or “warning” where the there is no scientific evidence of harm caused by the product. In such a case, mere conjecture or claims of precaution is insufficient to compel speech.