By Tassilo Hummel and Johnny Cotton
PARIS (Reuters) -Belgium said on Thursday it would review potential health risks linked to Apple’s iPhone 12, raising the prospect that more European countries might ban the model after France ordered a halt to sales due to breaches of radiation exposure limits.
However, there seemed to be no immediate prospect of an EU-wide ban as the European Commission said it would wait for feedback from other EU countries before deciding on any action.
European Union member states, which were notified by the French regulator on Wednesday, have three months to provide comments. Some, such as Italy, said they would take no steps for now.
Apple contests the French findings, saying the iPhone 12 – now a relatively old model launched in 2020 – was certified by multiple international bodies as compliant with radiation standards.
Researchers have conducted a vast number of studies over the last two decades to assess the health risk of mobile phones. According to the World Health Organisation, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by their use.
Mathieu Michel, Belgium’s state secretary for digitalisation told Reuters that the Belgian regulator was looking into the matter after the French moves.
“We immediately asked the IBPT (Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications) for confirmation, or at least an analysis, and this is currently under way,” he said.
Michel also asked the regulator to review all Apple smartphones, and devices made by others, at a later stage.
However, he stressed that European standards were extremely cautious and there were no immediate safety concerns.
“So that’s why today it’s obviously a limit which is being crossed (according to the French regulator) and that’s not acceptable, but in terms of health and safety, I don’t think there’s any reason to think that we’re all going to turn into little green men.”
The iPhone 12 had passed the radiation test conducted by the French agency in 2021.
Germany’s network regulator BNetzA reiterated that the work in France could act as a guide for Europe as a whole and that it would examine the issue for the German market if the process in France had progressed sufficiently.
The Dutch digital watchdog also said it was looking into the matter and would ask the U.S. firm for an explanation, while stressing there was “no acute safety risk”.
Italy’s industry ministry, meanwhile, said it was monitoring the situation but not taking any action for now.
Portugal’s telecommunications regulator ANACOM said it was monitoring and analysing developments in coordination with France, and expected one of the two likely outcomes: Apple correcting the situation or, failing that, Brussels telling EU member states “to adopt proportional measures”.
Britain, where the iPhone 12 met radiation safety standards when it was released, has not announced any plans in the wake of France’s decision.
Industry experts said there were no safety risks as regulatory limits, based on the risk of burns or heatstroke from the phone’s radiation, were set well below levels where scientists have found evidence of harm.
Apple’s revenues totalled about $95 billion in Europe last year, making the region its second biggest behind the Americas. Some estimates say it sold more than 50 million iPhones last year in Europe.
Apple, which does not break out its sales by country or model, launched the iPhone 15 on Tuesday and the three-year old iPhone 12 is not available to buy from Apple online in France and other European countries. It can, however, be bought from third parties, including Amazon France.
“Limiting iPhone 12 sales, in and of itself, should not be that impactful for iPhone. We would be more concerned if newer models were involved,” DA Davidson analyst Tom Forte said.
Forte said that Apple could face bigger problems elsewhere, such as potential curbs on the use of iPhones in China and new data regulations in Europe.
(Additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Hakan Ersen, Giuseppe Fonte, Silvia Aloisi, Supantha Mukherjee, Patricia Rua; Writing by Tassilo Hummel and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)