FOIMan analyses the Information Commissioner’s decisions in relation to the use of s.14(1) of the UK FOI Act to refuse burdensome requests.

A few weeks ago I promised to bring you an article on the above, and here it is. My key conclusions (it’s a long article so to save those in a hurry a bit of time):

  • if arguing that a request is vexatious because the requester has a history of frequent correspondence, the more correspondence the better
  • if the problem is the volume asked for, then again, the bigger the volume the easier it will be to argue
  • make sure though, that estimates are realistic – the Commissioner will check
  • the argument can be strengthened by explaining how dealing with the request would impact on public services
  • the limits set out in the fees regulations under s.12 are a starting point if trying to establish whether a request is too burdensome for s.14 purposes, but are just that – it’s unlikely that the Commissioner will agree a request is burdensome below those limits, and they are unlikely to be sympathetic where a request would take just a bit longer than these limits imply
  • if there are other factors, such as evidence that the request is distressing employees, that will help make the case more convincing
  • if there is a serious purpose or public interest in disclosure, that can make it harder to make the argument that a request is vexatious, even if a lot of work would be involved in answering it. Certainly, in borderline cases, this is likely to weigh in favour of disclosure.

The article also discusses the Ofgem decision I discussed here a few weeks ago.