The government’s review of the Freedom of Information Act could introduce fees for those making request.

At present FOI requests do not cost any money to make or receive responses to.

The group five individuals conducting the review of the Act has today published the questions it will try to answer and allude to introducing a charge for those that want to access information.

Under the section of the review which is looking at the Act’s ‘burden’ the issue of charging people to access information is discussed.

“Separately, section 9 of the Act provides a wide power for fees to be charged for responding to requests. During the passage of the FoI Bill, there was an expectation that a fee would be charged for making a request, but that was not implemented,” the call for evidence says.

The document goes on to detail other countries that charge their citizens for trying to access information that has been created with taxpayer money.

It lists Ireland’s fee structure, although fees for FOI requests were removed last year. In Ireland some fees still apply but a €15 fee for those making requests was scrapped – when the initial fee for making requests was introduced in 2003 the number of FOI requests fell by 50%.

As well as the references to fees in the Commission’s publication the Guardian has also reported sources saying they will consider introducing charges on requests.

There are provisions within the Act for costs to be placed on requesters but these are very rarely replied upon.

The Commission is accepting evidence until the 20th November.

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.