Apple moves to defuse French iPhone 12 controversy as EU probe accelerates

  • Apple says it’s rolling out a software update for the iPhone12 in France
  • France says the update should allow iPhone 12 sales to resume
  • Apple says it still denies the French radiation findings
  • Belgium says it has asked Apple for an EU-wide software update
  • Belgium says it sees no risk to users, Denmark says it’s not concerned

PARIS, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Apple ( AAPL.O ) pledged on Friday to update software on iPhone 12s in France to resolve a dispute over radiation levels, but concerns in other European countries signaled similar action elsewhere.

France halted sales of iPhone 12 handsets this week after tests it said exceeded radiation exposure limits.

Apple contested the findings, saying on Friday that the iPhone 12 had been certified by several international bodies as compliant with global standards, but that it would issue a software update to accommodate testing methods used in France.

Over the past two decades researchers have conducted numerous studies to assess the health risks of mobile phones. According to the World Health Organization, no adverse health effects from them have been established.

But the radiation warning in France, based on the results of tests carried out in other countries, has sparked concerns across Europe.

Belgium’s secretary of state for digitalisation has asked Apple to update the iPhone 12 software across EU countries, even though he said the handset poses no risk to users based on the Belgian regulator’s own preliminary review.

Germany said it was in touch with French authorities to find an EU-wide solution, while Italy is asking Apple to improve software on iPhone 12s, a government source in Rome said.

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However, a second Italian government source said any demands on Apple or separate decisions by Italian authorities would only come at the end of the French investigation.

The Dutch Authority for Digital Infrastructure said it would conduct its own investigation in two weeks and was in contact with Apple and German and French authorities. The company said it received calls from concerned consumers.

The French government welcomed Apple’s software update, saying it would be tested quickly and should allow sales of the relatively old iPhone 12 model introduced in 2020 to resume.

“We will issue a software update to users in France to accommodate the protocol used by French regulators. We expect iPhone 12 to continue to be available in France,” Apple said in a statement.

“This is related to a specific testing protocol used by French regulators and is not a safety concern,” it said.

Apple regularly issues software updates for its phones and computers, often to fix security issues. They may focus on a specific model or a region, and sometimes Apple releases updates multiple times in a month.

Joint tests

France’s Agence Nationale des Frequencies (ANFR) said on Tuesday that the iPhone 12’s specific absorption rate (SAR) — a measure of the proportion of radio frequency energy from a device that is absorbed by the body — was higher than legally allowed, prompting a sales suspension. .

A change in French regulations in 2020 allowed SAR to be tested on the limbs – holding a phone in the hands – as well as the head and body, as used elsewhere. In French limb SAR tests, the iPhone 12 failed, measuring at 0 mm distance compared to 5 mm distance for physical tests.

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Belgian minister for digitization Mathieu Michel said in a statement on Friday that while a review of the phone by the country’s IPPT regulator was still ongoing, the first results were “reassuring” and there was no need to recall the phone. Belgium.

Even so, he said he contacted Apple and asked them to “review its software updates in a uniform manner across Europe.”

Denmark also moved to reassure owners of the phone, saying its safety commission would not take action following France’s findings and was not concerned about radiation levels from using the iPhone 12.

“Based on available information, the Danish Health Authority’s assessment is that you can continue to use your iPhone 12 without concern,” it said in an emailed statement.

Industry experts said there were no safety risks because regulatory limits based on the risk of burns or heating from the phone’s radiation were set far below where scientists found evidence of harm.

“I suspect that eventually the whole incident will be quickly forgotten,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, highlighting that the iPhone 12 is an older model.

Apple launched the iPhone 15 on Tuesday and the iPhone 12 cannot be purchased directly from Apple. However, it can be purchased from third parties who trade consignment or old phones.

A bigger problem would have been a potential recall, which France threatened if Apple refused to issue a software update.

Apple’s revenue in Europe was about $95 billion last year, making it its second-largest region behind the United States. Some estimates suggest that more than 50 million iPhones were sold in Europe last year.

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The American company doesn’t break out its sales by country or model.

Reporting by Elisabeth Bino, and Tassilo Hummel in Paris, Elvira Pollina in Milan, Hakan Ersen in Berlin, and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Subanta Mukherjee Editing by Ingrid Melander and Silvia Alosi Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Dassilo is a trained lawyer who first joined Reuters in Berlin and then rejoined in Paris. He covers French politics and business, EU institutions and NATO.

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