Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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BHSI's FOIA Request to CPSC

Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute June 16, 2003

Freedom of Information Act Request
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, DC 20207

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear Sirs:

This will request that the Consumer Product Safety Commission make disclosure and provide copies of certain materials available to us pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC Section 552, and the relevant regulations of the agency. Specifically, we request a list of all bicycle helmet compliance cases that the Commission has in its files since 1998.

Under present regulation, and case law pertaining to the Freedom of Information Act, we believe that these documents are available to us and to other members of the public. They arc not exempted from required disclosure under present interpretations of the Act. Notwithstanding such regulations and law, disclosure of the requested material would be in the public interest. We intend to make the material available to the public on our website and through other means.

If any portion of this request is deemed denied, we request a detailed statement of the reasons for the withholding and an index or similar statement of the nature of the documents withheld. To expedite this request, we would be willing to discuss specific instances of deletion or other exemption claims in advance of a final decision by the agency. In the event of deletions, we request that a reason be stated for each full or partial denial of access.

Pursuant to the Act, we promise to pay reasonable charges incurred for appropriate search and copying of these documents upon presentation of an invoice along with the finished documents. If search and copying fees exceed $250. please telephone us in advance at (703) 486-0100 or email us at info@helmets.org for agreement to such charges. We look forward to your response within 30 days or earlier if possible.

Sincerely yours,

Randy Swart

CPSC's Non-Response

On June 23, 2003, CPSC sent us an acknowledgment of our request and assigned it number S-2003060098.

On June 26th CPSC sent us a letter saying that there is a list of all bicycle helmet recalls on their website. We sent them another registered letter and spoke to the staffer who wrote their letter by telephone, explaining the difference between compliance cases and compliance cases that resulted in recalls. We had difficulty believing that a CPSC employee working on FOIA requests would not understand that, to be charitable.

On August 14th CPSC sent us a letter explaining that before releasing any material they have to ask the manufacturers involved for comment. They sent the companies a copy of our letter and the information they intend to release. The companies had 30 days to respond. CPSC's letter says "If the company claims confidentiality for proprietary information, we must evaluate these comments and renotify the firms if we overrule any claims." So they did understand what we were asking for well enough to identify the manufacturers who could be affected.

We eventually did receive a response to our request. It consisted of a data dump of completely unintelligible stuff. We gave up. It seemed to us that the agency clearly did not want to release embarrassing data, and will not despite the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

Here are two previous FOIA requests for CPSC data. One worked, but they ignored the other.

And here is our page on the public database of consumer complaints that they were required by law to put up on web.