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Persistent correspondents

Several authorities have asked the Commissioner for advice about responding to persistent correspondents. In particular, for on handling large numbers of emails which may, or may not, include information requests and emails that are copied to a large number of individuals and organisation. The Commissioner recognises these challenges. Authorities cannot ignore the correspondence in case it contains an information request (or a subject access request or complaint). The advice below sets out several things authorities can do to make handling such correspondence easier.

Responding to persistent correspondents

How does FOISA differ from the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (the EIRs)?

There are a number of critical differences between FOISA, which deals with access to general information, and the EIRs, which cover access to environmental information. View the Commissioner's comprehensive briefing "Differences between EIRs and FOISA".

Re-use of public sector information

The Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 transpose the provisions of the revised EU Directive 2003/98/EC.

The re-use provisions apply only to information that authorities produce as part of their "public task" e.g., where the information is essential to the authority's delivery of its public service, its creation and maintenance is funded through taxation. The authority must hold the copyright in the information. Re-use also only applies to information that is already accessible, for example, published by the authority or disclosed under FOI.

The re-use provisions allow anyone to request to re-use public sector information. The main changes from previous regulations are:

  • What was previously a voluntary framework is now mandatory: most authorities are obliged to allow re-use of public sector information that they publish or disclose in response to information requests.
  • Authorities can charge "marginal" costs for re-use of their information. Charges cannot exceed the cost of collection, production, reproduction, dissemination, etc.
  • Information for re-use should be provided in "machine-readable" formats wherever possible.
  • Redress arrangements include powers to issue a binding decision. The initial right of appeal is to the Information Commissioner's Office in the UK, even where the body involved is a Scottish public authority.

For more information read the Information Commissioner's Office's Guide to RPSI and The National Archives guidance about PSI.

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