Unhappy about the response you got?

If ...

  • You didn't get a reply within 20 working days

... you can

  • Complain directly to the Information Commissioner.

If ...

  • You did not get all of the information that you requested or
  • Your request was refused, but without a reason valid under the law

... you can

  1. Ask for an internal review at the public authority.
  2. If that doesn't help, complain to the Information Commissioner.
  3. Either way, also use other means to answer your question.

1. Asking for an internal review #

At the bottom of the relevant request page on WhatDoTheyKnow choose "request an internal review". Then write a message asking for an internal review of your request. You may want to include a link to the request page, to make it clear which request you are talking about.

Internal reviews should be quick. If one takes longer than 20 working days then the authority should write and let you know, and it should never take longer than 40 working days (see this good practice guide). You will then either get the information that you originally requested, or you will be told that the review upholds the original decision.

2. Complaining to the Information Commissioner #

If you are still unhappy after the public authority has done their internal review, then you can complain to the Information Commissioner. To do this, read the Information Commissioner's advice for those with concerns about accessing information. If you requested information from a Scottish authority, then appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

To make it easier to send the relevant information to the Information Commissioner, either include a link to your request on WhatDoTheyKnow in your complaint or print out the whole page of your request and all attachments.

WhatDoTheyKnow has no special facilities for handling a request at this stage - it passes into the Information Commissioner's system. You can leave annotations on your request keeping people informed of progress.

A warning. Although the Information Commissioner has worked hard to reduce their backlog of casework, it can still take several months to get resolution from them in most circumstances. One area where they have sped up things considerably is that they are able to prompt non-responsive authorities to reply within a few weeks of receiving a complaint.

If you reach this point, you should accept that you won't get the information quickly by this means. Maybe you want to help the fight to improve Freedom of Information, or maybe getting the information slowly is still worthwhile. You can also try and get the information by other means...

3. Using other means to answer your question #

You can try pursuing your problem or your research in other ways.

  • Make a new FOI request for summary information, or for documentation relating indirectly to matters in your refused request. Ask us for ideas if you're stuck.
  • If any other public authorities or publicly owned companies are involved, then make FOI requests to them.
  • Write to your MP or other politician using WriteToThem and ask for their help finding the answer. MPs can write directly to ministers or departments, and can ask written questions in the House of Commons. Councillors in local authorities can talk directly to council officers.
  • Try asking for the information from the European Union. Every one of the 500 million people living in the European Union (both citizens and residents) has the legally guaranteed right to ask for information from EU authorities. AskTheEU.org is a version of this website for the European Union.
  • Ask other researchers who are interested in a similar issue to yours for ideas. You can sometimes find them by browsing this site; contact any registered user from their page. There may be an Internet forum or group that they hang out in.
  • You could form a small local campaign group and arrange a meeting with staff from the authority.