Q&As

Does the Freedom of Information Act 2000 require a public authority to comply with a request for information (subject to payment of a fee) where to do so would exceed the appropriate costs limit? Can a requester challenge a decision of a public authority if they refuse to do so in these circumstances?

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Published on LexisPSL on 03/03/2016

The following Local Government Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Does the Freedom of Information Act 2000 require a public authority to comply with a request for information (subject to payment of a fee) where to do so would exceed the appropriate costs limit? Can a requester challenge a decision of a public authority if they refuse to do so in these circumstances?
  • Refusing a freedom of information request under Freedom of Information Act 2000 where the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit
  • Charging where the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit
  • Advice and assistance
  • Complaints/challenges

Refusing a freedom of information request under Freedom of Information Act 2000 where the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit

Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIA 2000) provides that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information (in accordance with FIA 2000, s 1) if the cost of complying would exceed the ‘appropriate limit’. See Practice Note: Freedom of information for public sector — When a public authority can refuse a request.

The ‘appropriate limit’ is set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004, SI 2004/3244 (the Fees Regulations). The limit for complying with a request (or series of linked requests) is £600 for central government, legislative bodies and the armed forces and £450 for other public authorities (see reg 3).

In estimating whether the cost would exceed the limit, the authority can only take into account costs it reasonably expects to incur in carrying out the certain activities, see reg 4(3). For a recent case concerning costs estimates in this context, see News Analysis: Responding to requests for information—how much is enough?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance on FIA 2000, s 12 confirms:

‘If a public authority estimates that it would exceed the appropriate limit to confirm whether or not the requested information is held then, under section 12(2)

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