Making a Complaint
This section explains the process for making a complaint against a public authority in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or seeking redress, if you believe that your request for environmental information has been mishandled or wrongly refused.
If you are dealing with a Scottish public authority, please go to this page.
- Public authorities’ internal complaints procedures
- The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) require public authorities to set up internal complaints procedures to deal with complaints from the public on the handling of requests for environmental information. You must follow these procedures before seeking further redress under the law. Most public authorities outline their complaints procedures on their websites. Public authorities have 40 days to respond to a complaint. Some organisations (DEFRA, for example) aim to respond within 20 days.
- Complaints to the Information Commissioner
- If you are not satisfied with the public authority's response, you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner. Complaints must be in writing and must be sent as soon as possible after you are told the outcome of the public authority's internal review. Although the EIRs do not state a time limit for the Information Commissioner’s Office to review complaints, it is expected to act in a timely and efficient manner.
A public authority is expected to comply with the Information Commissioner's decision although it has the right to appeal to the Information Tribunal.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted by telephone on 0303 123 1113, by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by post at Information Commissioner’ Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
- Right of appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights)
- If you are not happy with the Information Commissioner’s decision, you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. The Tribunal's General Regulatory Chamber deals with information rights appeals. The procedure for appeals is set out in the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009 (see link below).
- Court action
- If you are not satisfied with the tribunal’s decision, you can seek redress through the courts. But remember that litigation can be expensive and may not bring about the outcome you want.
Guidance on the complaints and appeals procedure is available both on the Information Commissioner's Office websites. Please note that this guidance is not a substitute for seeking professional legal advice on any grievance relating to the handling of a request for environmental information.