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Thursday May 02, 2019

CPSC Details In-Progress Mitigation of Disclosures; 11K Firms Affected

CPSC changed its information-release procedures in early April in reaction to its problematic disclosures to 29 recipients since 2017 and affecting approximately 11,000 companies. Primary in those changes is rerouting all requests made to the Information Clearinghouse through the FoIA system. The Clearinghouse was the source of the problem, which involved release of information without following 6(b) procedures.


The agency also set up a five-part process aimed at stopping the problem and fixing it going forward. It currently is at part 3, which involves answering companies' questions or filling in knowledge gaps (see timeline below).


CPSC spokesman Joe Martyak May 2 emphasized to PSL the already-in-process nature of these actions, beginning about a month ago. He also stressed that CPSC has considered the situation to be a high priority and that it takes its related legal obligations very seriously – those sentiments are similar to ones stated by Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle May 1 when concerns about the disclosure controversy arose at a CPSC priorities hearing.


As for what happened, Martyak explained that the focus has been on stopping the problem, informing companies, and ensuring against recurrence. Piecing together the underlying problem will come later.


Other known details include that about half of the 29 recipients have agreed to CPSC's request to return or certify destruction of the materials. CPSC is re-contacting recipients that have not responded. The recipient of the largest quantity of information is among those who agreed to comply. The only recipient known to PSL as refusing is Consumer Reports (PSL, 4/22/19). PSL was not a recipient; it typically does not use the Clearinghouse.


Other parts of the timeline as known to PSL:

  • April 1: CPSC learned of the problem when Consumer Reports revealed its possession to the agency.

  • April 11-12 (part 1): CPSC contacted the 11,000 firms to notify them and to verify that it had correct contact information. It had to reiterate the second part (PSL, 4/15/19), emphasizing that contact verification was necessary for a company to get further details about its situation.

  • April 15 (part 2): CPSC began giving companies with confirmed contact those details. It prioritized firms affected by the Consumer Reports situation. It gave those companies identification numbers (PSL, 4/22/19) that refer to the disclosed information and given to them prior to the unauthorized releases for other purposes.

  • May 2 (part 3): CPSC began answering companies questions or taking steps like helping them identify the information linked to the reference numbers. Firms affected by the Consumer Reports situation are getting spreadsheets with rows detailing each disclosure. If one involved multiple companies, CPSC is removing columns containing information about the other companies with an aim towards avoiding additional unauthorized disclosures.

  • May 6 and Forward (parts 4 & 5): Follow-ups to companies not affected by the Consumer Reports release will start. Steps will include the numbers corresponding to released information and the spreadsheets.




Other PSL stories related to this matter:


Respond Now to Notices of Unauthorized Disclosures, CPSC Urges Companies

Companies need to confirm to CPSC immediately that they received letters about unauthorized release of their information.


Disclosures Outside 6(b) Occurred for Year-Plus; CR Rebuffs Return Requests

CPSC's recurring disclosures of companies' information outside 6(b) procedures happened for over a year, and at least one recipient has rejected the agency's request to return or certify destruction of the materials.


CR Gives Insight into Link between 6(b) and Sleeper Developments

Consumer Reports (CR) April 18 told PSL it saw a "duty" to consumers to publicize incidents CPSC provided outside the 6(b) process, and it confirmed the connection to the Fisher-Price Rock 'n' Play matter.