Let’s Get One Thing Straight #2 – Freedom of Information Act Requests and Travel Businesses

The second of Travlaw’s ongoing series clarifying points for travel and leisure businesses, this article sets out an often asked question which is usually framed along the lines of “A customer has sent us a request demanding information under the Freedom of Information Act – do I have to respond?” Matt Gatenby and Faraan Babar tell us more…

On 1 January 2005, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”) came into force which gives individuals and companies the right to ask public authorities whether they hold information certain information, and, if they do, the right to request that information to be given. The FOIA is easily confused with Subject Access Requests under the Data Protection Act 2018, but FOIA requests have a key difference as far as travel and leisure businesses go. (See elsewhere in our Articles resource for more on Subject Access Requests!).

The starting point on FOIA’s is that they only apply to “Public Authorities”.

What is a “Public Authority”?

The FOIA is very clear in that Public Authority is defined at section 3;

Public Authorities

1. In this Act “public authority” means—subject to section 4(4), any body which, any other person who,

    1. or the holder of any office which—
      1. is listed in Schedule 1, or
      2. is designated by order under section 5, or
    2. a publicly-owned company as defined by section 6.


2. For the purposes of this Act, information is held by a public authority if—

    1. it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another person, or
    2. it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.

See https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/section/3

The Answer therefore is…

So, in short – if you are a private business, and not a UK public body, or a devolved part of the UK Government, the FOIA is not going to apply. That is it! As such, if you receive such a request you can almost certainly politely respond to the consumer and say that the FOIA does not apply to you. It is worth bearing in mind that there will be a reason why a customer is asking and so that may not be the end of the matter!



As always, if you are a business working in the travel and leisure sphere and have any questions on this please do not hesitate to reach out on 01132 580033 or email Matt@Travlaw.co.uk or Faraan@Travlaw.co.uk.

This article was originally published on: 16 January 2023

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