Regulators have ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 12 in France, saying it emits electromagnetic radiation levels that are above European Union standards for exposure. The company disputes the findings and says the device complies with regulations.
The French government agency that manages wireless communications frequencies, ANFR, issued the order on Tuesday after the iPhone 12 failed one of two types of tests for electromagnetic waves capable of being absorbed by the body.
ANFR called on Apple to try to "rapidly fix this malfunction" for phones already in use and said it would monitor device updates.
If they don't work, the company will have to recall phones that have already been sold in France, it said.
Apple responded in a statement that the iPhone 12, launched in 2020, was certified by multiple international bodies as compliant with global radiation standards.
The company said that it had provided ANFR with results from its own lab tests and others conducted by third parties that demonstrate the model's compliance, and that it was contesting the agency's findings.
Over EU limits
ANFR said it would send agents to Apple stores and other distributors to check the model was no longer being sold in France.
The watchdog recently tested 141 cellphones and found that when the iPhone 12 is held in a hand or carried in a pocket, its level of electromagnetic energy absorption is 5.74 watts per kilogram, higher than the EU standard of 4 watts per kilogram.
The phone passed a separate test of radiation levels for devices kept in a jacket or in a bag, the agency said. It also passed when held directly to the head as if making a phone call.
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France's minister for digital issues, Jean-Noël Barrot, told Franceinfo radio that the iPhone 12's radiation levels are "slightly higher" than EU standards but "significantly lower than levels where scientific studies consider there may be consequences for users".
The regulatory limits - based on the risk of burns or heatstroke from the phone's radiation - are already set ten times below the level where scientists found evidence of harm.
"But the rule is the rule," Barrot said.
France's move raises the prospect of further bans in Europe.
Germany's network regulator said it might launch similar proceedings and was in close contact with French authorities, while a consumer group in Spain urged authorities there to halt sales of the iPhone 12.
"In practical terms, this decision could have a snowball effect," Barrot told Le Parisien newspaper.
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The World Health Organization states that following a large number of studies that "no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use".
Its cancer research arm classifies smartphones as "possible" carcinogens, putting them in the same category as coffee, diesel fumes and the artificial sweetener aspartame.