The ICO exists to empower you through information.

Step 1: Ask the public authority to carry out an internal review

Contact the public authority in writing and ask it to review the decision. Politely explain why you disagree with the response, being as clear and specific as possible. If it has withheld information, it should explain why it needs to withhold it. You might find it helpful to get a second opinion from someone you know, to help you assess whether the response is fair and makes sense.

Usually, a public authority should respond to your request for an internal review within another 20 working days. It should carry out the review in an independent and fair way. Don’t wait too long to request the review – a public authority could refuse to deal with it if you wait longer than 40 working days.

You could use the following letter template as a guide, adding in the details of your own complaint:


Ref No: [if applicable]

Thank you for your response to my information request, sent on [date], copy attached. 

I am dissatisfied with the handling of my request for the following reason(s):

[explain why you are unhappy with the result of your request. For example:

I disagree with the outcome of the public interest test because….

I don’t believe the cost of providing the information would exceed the cost limit because…

You have not provided me with enough support to refine my request…

I disagree that the exemption applies because…]

Please carry out an internal review of the handling of my request and consider changing your position.

I understand that you should respond to me within 20 working days, as outlined in the Information Commissioner’s guidance:

“The Information Commissioner’s Office recommends that public authorities carry out internal reviews within 20 working days. Under Environmental Information Regulations there is a legal requirement that internal reviews must be carried out as soon as possible and within 40 working days.”



Step 2: Complain to the ICO

If you’re unhappy with the outcome of their internal review, you can complain to the ICO and we will make an independent assessment of the response you received. We don’t act as your representative. Our role is to regulate the legislation that we oversee for the overall benefit of the public, rather than individual requesters. We don’t award compensation.

The easiest way to lodge a complaint with us is through our website.

Before you complain, it’s helpful to read our detailed guidance on our complaints process.

We will need to see copies of the most relevant parts of your correspondence with the organisation – your request, their response, your request for an internal review and the outcome of their review.

Please bring your complaint to us within six weeks of their response or your last substantive contact with them.

If you are dissatisfied after we’ve issued our decision, you then have the right to take the matter to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights).

Further advice from the ICO

For further advice, you can contact us via our live chat service or call our helpline on 0303 123 1113.

Further reading

Our index of FOI and EIR guidance allows you to access the formal guidance we have produced for public authorities. The people handling your request are likely to base their decisions on this guidance.

We publish our decision notices. These are the formal decisions which we make on specific complaints about FOI or EIR complaints brought to us by members of the public.