A federal judge has declared that the public must have access to safety data from automotive OEMs and part manufacturers, even before a recall is officially announced. The ruling comes as the result of a suit filed by Public Citizen, which was claiming that manufacturers should not have blanket protection from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings when it comes to the warranty claim data and other safety-related complaints that must be filed with the Department of Transportation.

The tire industry fought to keep the data confidential, stating that any release of it prior to the announcement of an official recall safety campaign would constitute "competitive harm". When the TREAD Act of 2000 originally passed in the wake of the Firestone debacle, such information reporting was required, and when the DOT's National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed rules on the matter in 2002, it stated that any reported data would be "non-confidential". A final issuing of the rule in 2003 allowed the pre-recall data to remain safe from FOIA filings, however.

[Source: Detroit News]

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