By Mathieu Rosemain and Silvia Aloisi
PARIS (Reuters) – Apple said on Wednesday its iPhone 12 model was certified by multiple international bodies as compliant with global radiation standards after a French watchdog ordered it to stop selling the handset on the grounds it breaches European exposure limits.
The ANFR radiation watchdog told Apple on Tuesday to halt sales of iPhone 12s in France after tests which it said showed the phone’s Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)- a measure of the rate of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body from a piece of equipment – was higher than legally allowed.
The Agence Nationale des Fréquences, or ANFR, said it would send agents to Apple stores and other distributors to check the model was no longer being sold.
The agency, which manages France’s radio frequencies and periodically tests phones to check human exposure to electromagnetic waves, said it expected Apple “to deploy all available means to put an end to the non-compliance.”
A failure to act would result in the recall of iPhone 12s already sold to consumers, it added.
Apple said it had provided ANFR with multiple Apple and independent third-party lab results proving its compliance with all applicable SAR regulations and standards in the world.
It said it was contesting the results of AFNR’s review and would continue to engage with the agency to show it is compliant.
The AFNR said accredited labs had found absorption of electromagnetic energy by the body at 5.74 watts per kilogram during tests simulating when the phone was being held in the hand or kept in a trouser pocket. The European standard is a specific absorption rate of 4.0 watts per kilogram.
ANFR added the tests showed the phone complied with so-called body-SAR standards when it was in a jacket pocket or bag.
France’s junior minister for the digital economy, Jean-Noel Barrot, said a software update would be sufficient to fix the radiation issues linked to the phone which the U.S. company has been selling since 2020.
“Apple is expected to respond within two weeks”, he told daily Le Parisien in an interview late on Tuesday, adding: “If they fail to do so, I am prepared to order a recall of all iPhones 12 in circulation. The rule is the same for everyone, including the digital giants.”
Apple doesn’t break out its sales by country or model. Its revenues totalled about $95 billion in Europe last year, making the region its second biggest behind the Americas. Some estimates say it sold over 50 million iPhones last year in Europe. The company launched the iPhone 15 on Tuesday.
The ANFR said it had recently tested 141 mobile phone models, including the iPhone 12.”If Apple chooses to update its telephones, it shall be verified by the ANFR,” the agency said.
The European Union has set safety limits for SAR values linked to exposure to mobile phones, which could increase the risk of some forms of cancer, according to scientific studies.
The French watchdog will now pass on its findings to regulators in other EU member states. “In practical terms, this decision could have a snowball effect”, said Barrot.
In 2020, France widened regulations requiring retailers to display the radiation value of products on packaging beyond cell phones, including tablets and other electronic devices.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Mark Potter)