The process of sending a Freedom of Information request is not an incredibly complex one. It has been made as easy as possible so to encourage more people to make requests.

Listed below are the main things that need to be included when making a FOI request.

Is it going to cost me anything?

Requests under the act are free but may be liable to a charge if paper copies are requested.

Authorities can charge for requests if answering the request would exceed the cost limits. However it is very rare that authorities provide a requester with this option, and it is not possible for the requester to volunteer to pay for a response to be provided.

How should I make the request?

Requests have to be made in writing and be legible. The request does not have to say it is a request under the Freedom of Information Act, but this may help authorities to be confident it is.

Requests can be made by:

What do I include in my request?

There are three crucial things that need to be included in an FOI request for it to be valid.

  • The requester’s real name
  • An address where they can be contacted (an email address counts)
  • A description of the information

Other than this there are no rules for how to write a FOI request, but it’s wise to be polite and clearly set out the information, which is being asked for as this will make it easier for the authority to find.

How do I receive the information?

The requester has the right to decide how they will receive the information they are asking for.

It can be received in electronic format, this can include the programme format e.g. Excel, paper copies, braille, audio format, or large print depending on the requester’s needs.

In some cases the information may only be viewable by attending the authority and viewing it in person i.e. for documents which can not be copied.

More in this guide: 

The following pages give more information about the FOI Act and the rights of a requester.

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

Who is covered by the Freedom of Information Act?

How to send a request under the Act

Know your rights

How to complain about a request

The authority has not responded to my FOI request

Freedom of Information exemptions

Tips for making a request

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.