You may have received an e-mail notice this week from the CPSC about the FOIA office’s new “Electronic Manufacturer Notification Collaboration Portal.” The main purpose of the Portal is to reduce costs by using e-mail instead of snail mail for Section 6(b) and other FOIA-related notifications.

Generally, automation of this process shouldn’t result in any meaningful changes in the FOIA notification and objection process. The Commission’s regulations allow firms to submit information with a request for confidential treatment. If the Commission receives a FOIA request for information previously designated confidential, the person who previously submitted the request for confidentiality is notified of the FOIA request and the need for quick response to protect that information from disclosure.

Given the quick turnaround time on requesting exemption from disclosure under FOIA, it is imperative for all industry players to make sure that the right contact is assigned – including someone in the Legal Department – to receive Portal notifications so your team can make quick decisions and take action if filing an objection is necessary. The same contact person used for the Clearinghouse or Saferproducts.gov is a good bet. But requesting an exemption under FOIA takes some analysis of the regulations. Was the information submitted under section 15? Is it a trade secret? And so companies would be well advised to make sure they have a process in place and conduct training program to protect confidential data from disclosure.

If you haven’t yet received any notifications about the new automated Portal, you should check in with the CPSC at cpsc-foia@cpsc.gov and provide contact information for the proper registration person. The full text of the notification recently sent by the CPSC is below:

Dear Manufacturer,

We are pleased to announce the launching of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Electronic Manufacturer Notification Collaboration Portal (Collaboration Portal). The Collaboration Portal is the latest enhancement to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Tracking System, FOIAXpress.

The Collaboration Portal will allow CPSC’s FOIA staff to communicate electronically with manufacturers, including private labelers, importers, distributors, and retailers (collectively referred to as “firms”), regarding FOIA requests submitted to us. Section 6(b) notifications to firms often include voluminous amounts of information. The Collaboration Portal will eliminate the need to send voluminous Section 6(b) notifications through the mail, thereby reducing CPSC’s postal mailing costs.

Key features of the Collaboration Portal include:

  • Email notification to a firm when CPSC receives a FOIA request about its product(s).
  • Electronic notification to a firm when CPSC locates information deemed responsive to a FOIA request.
  • Sign in capability for firms to download for review and comment any information in the responsive FOIA records, which are compressed into a .zip file for faster downloading.
  • Capacity for firms to respond and document their comments and claims of confidentiality; to upload correspondence; and, where applicable, mark up the records for CPSC’s FOIA staff to review.
  • Message system that allows CPSC’s FOIA staff and the firm to communicate.

You received this message because our records indicate that you are the contact at your organization for FOIA requests, and we want to notify you of our latest FOIA application.

Please verify that you are the correct contact for your organization by emailing us at cpsc-foia@cpsc.gov. If you would like to update your contact information (such as name, address, e-mail address), please do so at the time of verification.

If you are not the proper Collaboration Portal registration contact person for your organization, please notify CPSC immediately at: cpsc-foia@cpsc.gov, and provide the following contact information for that person:

Full Name (First, MI, Last)

Title

Organization Name

Mailing Address (Street, Suite, City/State and Zip Code)

Telephone Number

E-Mail Address (Mandatory – This is the User ID)

or, forward this message to the correct person within your organization and have them send their contact information to us at cpsc-foia@cpsc.gov.

Note: You must verify or update your contact information within 14 days of the date of this correspondence.

Once we receive verification or updated contact information, CPSC will register your contact with the Collaboration Portal system. Upon registration, the contact for your organization will receive two e-mails regarding the Collaboration Portal: one e-mail will contain their User ID and the application URL, and the other e-mail will contain the password for access to the Collaboration Portal.

For assistance, please contact us at: 301-504-7923, or via e-mail addressed at: cpsc-foia@cpsc.gov.