The Federal Trade Commission has charged two companies that sold devices that purportedly protect users from electromagnetic radiation emitted by cellular telephones with making false and unsubstantiated claims. In separate court actions announced today, the FTC alleges that Stock Value 1, Inc. and Comstar Communications, Inc. (Comstar) falsely represented that their products block up to 97% or 99% of radiation and other electromagnetic energy emitted by cellular telephones, thereby reducing consumers' exposure to this radiation. According to the FTC, the defendants lacked a reasonable basis to substantiate their claims. The Commission is seeking permanent injunctions, 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
Stock Value 1, Inc., based in Boca Raton, Florida, and also known as SV1, and its president, Deborah Jenkins, marketed and sold two products -- "SafeTShield™" and "NoDanger"-- that purportedly block electromagnetic energy emitted from cellular and cordless telephones to consumers throughout the United States. These products consist of metallic fiber patches that are placed over the earpieces of cellular and cordless telephones. The defendants advertised their products through TV, radio and print ads, and on the Internet. The defendants' ads and promotional materials contained statements such as:
"'NoDanger' is proven to protect the soft tissue of the ear ducts by filtering out 99% of the Electromagnetic waves emitted from the ear piece of mobile phones up to a frequency of 2,000 MHz."
"'SafeTShield'™'prevents electromagnetic waves from penetrating the brain through the ear duct. . . . 'SafeTShield'™ blocks up to 99% of the electromagnetic waves from penetrating the brain through the ear canal."
Comstar, based in West Sacramento, California, and its president, Randall Carasco, marketed and sold their products under the names "WaveShield," "WaveShield 1000," and "WaveShield 2000." They advertised their products to consumers nationwide through TV, radio and print ads, and on the Internet. To induce consumers to buy WaveShield products, the defendants'ads and promotional materials contained the following statements:
"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% 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% of the harmful electromagnetic radiation that enters through the antenna into the unprotected ear canal, without affecting the quality of the transmission."
The complaints allege that the defendants, in both cases, 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 allegedly also failed to disclose that the WaveShield, NoDanger, and SafeTShield™ products have no effect on this other electromagnetic energy. These facts, the FTC said, would be material to consumers' decision to buy or use their products.
Both complaints further allege that the defendants made false statements that their products had been scientifically "proven" and "tested," when in fact that was not the case.
According to a May 2001 Report by the General Accounting Office, "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."
The FTC has issued a new Consumer Alert - "Radiation Shields: Do They 'Cell' Consumers Short?" that offers suggestions for cell phone users who want to limit their exposure to the electromagnetic emissions from their phone. According to the FTC, there is no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from electromagnetic emissions. Consumers who want to limit their exposure can take steps such as:
- 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 the antenna outside the car; and
- avoid using cell phones where the signal is poor.
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.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaints in the appropriate federal district courts was 5-0. The complaint against the SV1 defendants was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, in Fort Lauderdale, on February 13, 2002. The complaint against the Comstar defendants was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento, on February 13, 2002.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaints are not a finding or ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The cases will be decided by the courts.
Copies of the complaints and the consumer alert are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
( FTC File No. 012-3098)(SV1 - Civil Action No. 02-CV-80131)
(Comstar - Civil Action No. 02-CV-00348)
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