Hundreds of conflicting studies have been released dealing with the safety of using mobile phones and the effects of wireless base stations on the health of people living near them.
These inconsistent studies will become a minefield for SA telecommunications providers when the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) kicks in in April this year.
Speaking at a workshop detailing how the new legislation will affect the telecoms industry, Leona Mentz, director for policy and regulation at Pygma Consulting, says that with health and safety “already a contentious area in industry, this part of the act may cause more ructions”.
She says that under the CPA, all businesses have to detail any risks associated with products they sell to consumers. “Consumers believe that base stations make you go grey [and] they could now accuse you of not informing them of the risks,” says Mentz.
Mobile phones emit electromagnetic radiation, sparking concerns in some quarters that it could cause long-term health problems. The actual effect on people has never been determined, yet operators will now have to stipulate these concerns when selling products.
According to Mentz, the new law stipulates that operators will also be held to account for any “harm created by damaged goods, defects or inadequate instructions”.
Before, manufacturers of the devices would have been held responsible for these kinds of issues.
Almost all mobile telecoms providers have at one time or another fallen foul of communities not happy with the erection of base stations in their neighbourhoods.
Mentz says the National Consumer Commission, created in terms of the act, will have the power to force operators to recall equipment it deems unsafe. This is despite an already lengthy process operators have go through to get equipment vetted by the Independent Communications Authority of SA.
However, Mentz says the equipment used in SA has been checked by international safety protection agency, the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, and is considered safe. “Accordingly, consumers in SA have no reason to be concerned about their health, in particular as it relates to the impact of base stations,” she says. — Candice Jones, TechCentral