EU tackles mobile phone charges

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The European Union says it is launching a full investigation into mobile telephone charges, following allegations that several national companies are overcharging their customers.
 
The companies are Belgium’s Belgacom, Ireland’s Telecom Eireann, British Telecommunications, P&T Austria, Spain’s Telefonica, KPN Telecom of the Netherlands, Telecom Italia and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.
 
A spokesman for the European Commission said the decision followed preliminary inquiries which revealed that at least 14 companies might be charging too much.
 
Stefan Rating said the investigation did not mean that legal action would necessarily be taken against any of the companies.
 
“This is to increase attention on this issue. We want to get some eyebrows knitted and get some kind of reaction,” he said.
 
He indicated that the EU expected them to reduce prices of their own accord. But he said the Commission could take further action if the findings warranted.
 
The Commission will examine what the companies charge mobile telephone operators on mobile-to-fixed telephone calls and fixed-to-mobile telephone calls, compared to what other operators are charged. 

Mobile health concerns to be heard in court

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The demand for mobile phones to carry a health warning is to be heard in court.
 
Biologist Roger Coghill, who believes cellular phones are dangerous, says the South West Gwent Magistrates Court will hear his private criminal action on September 2.
 
Mr Coghill, who runs an independent radiation laboratory at Pontypool in Wales, says the mobile phone is the biggest domestic appliance source of radiation ever invented. He wants the phones to carry a warning that more than 20 minutes of continuous use may damage health.
 
His action is being taken against a local telephone store. His test case will try to establish a breach of consumer protection laws.
 
There is growing concern that the radiation emitted by mobile phones may be dangerous and Mr Coghill is calling for manufacturers to take up a more responsible attitude.
 
But the phone companies say the current regulations are sufficient to protect the public.
 
Nevertheless, the issue continues to stay in the spotlight. Only last week, it was reported that military scientists at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency had done research which suggested that mobile phone signals could disrupt the part of the brain that controls memory and learning.
 
Other studies have suggested that mobiles – used by nine million people across Britain – can cause a rise in blood pressure and may harm pregnant women.
 
However, Britain’s National Radiological Protection Board, charged with regulating mobile phone use, says none of the research is conclusive.
 
“There is nothing at present to suggest any need to change our current line that it is safe to use the current generation of mobile phones,” Liz Francis, a NRPB spokeswoman says. 
 

Mobile phones in brain scare

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Government researchers have advised the public not to be alarmed by a report that mobile phones cause short-term memory loss and sudden confusion.

 
The Daily Mail carried a front page splash on a study carried out by military scientists at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency which suggested that mobile phone signals disrupt part of the brain which controls memory and learning.
 
Recent studies have already found mobiles – used by nine million people across Britain – can cause a rise in blood pressure and may harm pregnant women.
 
And they have been linked with brain tumours, cancer, headaches and tiredness.
 
But a DERA spokesman, although admitting that the research had taken place, said it was not specifically into the impact of mobile phone signals.
 
He said: “No health warning has been announced, and the research has been hyped.
 
“The radio waves tested are those that are used by mobile phones, and it is quite exciting because obviously there is an effect, but we do not know whether it is long term or short term. More research is needed.”
 

DERA scientists carried out experiments on rats with money from the Defence Ministry and Department of Health. The research was based on stimulating a slice of rat brain with broadcast radio signals at levels lower than current mobile phone safety limits.
 
The spokesman said: “It was noted that there was an effect on brain activity. When the radio waves were turned on brain activity stopped or slowed down, and when they were truned off brain activity started again.”
 
Dr Alan Preece, a consultant clinical scientist carrying out research into the impact of mobile phone signals on human volunteers, said it was too early for alarm.
 
Dr Preece said radio waves did penetrate the human head, but most were absorbed in the skin and skull before reaching the brain. He said: “This research is carried out on rat brain slices, and it is an awfully big step to equate it to the impact on human brains. The public should wait for the outcome of human studies before getting too worried about it.”
 
Dr Preece found radio waves do have impact on short term memory in a previous study, but at much lower frequencies than those used by mobile phones.
 
Liz Francis, a spokeswoman for the National Radiological Protection Board, said further research was needed on the impact on humans, and warned against generalising from animal research. She said: “There is nothing at present to suggest any need to change our current line that it is safe to use the current generation of mobile phones.”
 
Some campaigners, however, believe mobile phones should carry warning labels. Scientist Dr Roger Coghill told the Daily Mail: “Anyone who uses a mobile phone for more than 20 minutes at at time needs their head examined.” Last year a US study found rats lost their ability to learn simple tasks after exposure to microwave radiation similar to that emitted by mobile phones.