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What you can request under the Freedom of Information Act
The FOI Act gives any person the right to:
- request access to copies of documents we hold
- ask for a document containing information we hold about you to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading
- seek a review of our decision not to allow you access to a document or not to amend your personal record.
The ACCC will provide reasons for any decision to refuse access to any documents.
The definition of a document
The FOI Act defines a document as:
- any paper or other material on which there is writing or a mark, figure or symbol
- electronically stored information
- a map, a plan, a drawing or a photograph
- any article from which sounds, images or writing are capable of being produced.
The ACCC cannot be compelled to create a document under the FOI Act, and we do not conduct general research for the public.
The FOI Act does not extend to requests for information, unless we have the requested material in a computer database which can be printed as a document.
Documents held by the ACCC
The ACCC only has documents created by the ACCC, or documents that have been forwarded to the ACCC.
The ACCC doesn’t generally hold documents such as medical records, phone bills or police records. To access this material, contact your medical practitioner, telecommunication provider or local police force.
We hold the following categories of ACCC documents:
- ACCC public registers and confidential material excluded from ACCC public registers
- ACCC court, adjudication and legal material
- ACCC library material
- ACCC organisation matters
- ACCC publications, speeches and media releases
- ACCC personnel records
- ACCC working documents including staff investigations, reports, analyses, recommendations, correspondence and complaints
- ACCC correspondence with government and non-government bodies relating to new legislation relevant to our functions
- ACCC general correspondence with the public.
Documents available outside the FOI Act
Former and current employees can request certain personnel records through administrative access. This doesn't follow the formal process under the FOI Act.
You should also check the information we have published under the FOI disclosure log to see if what you are seeking is already available.
Matters the ACCC has taken to courts
If you wish to access the originating process for matters the ACCC has taken to court, visit the media releases.
The originating process will normally be published at the same time the media release is published, unless there are court or other restrictions on providing access.
If the originating process is not available at the time the media release is published, it will be uploaded as soon as it is available.
If we are unable to publish the originating process, you will need to request them yourself from the relevant court registry.
Making a request under FOI
A request must:
- be in writing
- be made under the FOI Act
- provide enough specific information for us to identify the documents you are seeking
- provide details of where notices can be sent – for example, an email or postal address.
Be specific about your request
Give as much specific information as possible about the document/s you are seeking.
Use these suggestions to assist us to identify the document/s:
- Limit your request to one or two dot points.
- Choose a specific category of documents, such as final documents, file notes, email correspondence or reports.
- Choose a specific date or date range, such as a final document dated 5 June 2022 or final documents created between 1 June 2022 and 30 June 2022.
- Limit your request to documents about a specific issue in relation to a specific matter, such as correspondence between the ACCC and (name of company or person) addressing why they consider the conduct was not unlawful.
- Be clear about what you don’t want. For example, hardcopy documents, publicly available material, duplicates, copies of your own correspondence.
Practical refusal reasons
We may refuse to process your request if a practical refusal reason exists. This may include:
- if the request is unclear and we can’t identify the documents
- the request is too large and would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the ACCC from its other operations.
We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include documents:
- containing material obtained in confidence
- relating to an ongoing investigation
- relating to complainants or other personal information, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.
We may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of documents. We may also refuse access where the documents cannot be found or do not exist.
Exclude third party identifying material in your FOI requests if you can, to minimise our need to consult those parties.
If a third party has review rights over the ACCC’s decision to release documents, we must wait for the expiration of those review rights before we can release such documents.
A third party who disagrees with an ACCC access decision can also ask for that decision to be reviewed.
Information about current investigations and complaints made by third parties are unlikely to be released.
How to lodge an FOI request
You can apply for access to documents by submitting the ACCC FOI request form.
An FOI request can also be made by email to email@example.com. Email requests are only valid if sent to this specific FOI email address.
You may also send or deliver an FOI request to an ACCC office.
If you need further information, please contact the FOI Officer on 02 6243 1111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fees and charges
Charges are generally payable for time spent on your request. The first 5 hours of decision-making time is free.
The most common charges are listed on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation and may ask you to pay a deposit.
You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. If you do so, you should explain your reasons and you may need to provide some evidence.
Charges are not payable for:
- accessing your own personal information
- if the ACCC doesn’t notify you of its access decision in line with the timeframes set out in the FOI Act.
Processing of FOI requests
The ACCC will:
- tell you within 14 days that it has received your request
- give you an estimate of any charges that apply to your request
- give you our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended.
We may extend the time by 30 days if we need to consult with third parties. We may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to 30 additional days if necessary, or seek an extension from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner if your request is complex or large.
Once the FOI request has been processed, available documents will be forwarded to you once any assessed charge is paid.
We may publish some documents we release to you. These documents are published on the FOI disclosure log within 10 working days of providing the documents to you.
When we make a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review rights.
You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed, if the ACCC:
- refuses to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
- imposes a charge
- refuses access because the documents can’t be found, don’t exist or a practical refusal reason exists
- refuses to confirm or deny the existence of a document.
You can request in writing that the ACCC reconsiders its decision through internal review within 30 days of the date of the decision. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in the ACCC. The ACCC will advise you of its new decision within 30 days of receiving your request.
You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review the ACCC's original decision or the ACCC's internal review decision within 60 days of the date of decision. If you are an affected third party, the time is 30 days after you are notified.
The Information Commissioner can:
- affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision
- decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances.
Find out more at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
If you are unhappy with the way the ACCC has handled your FOI request, you can complain to:
- the Deputy General Counsel, Corporate Law Unit, ACCC
- the Chief Executive Officer, ACCC
- the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Administrative access means release of government information, in response to a specific request, outside the processes in the FOI Act.
The ACCC has the following administrative access arrangements in place.
If you are a current or former ACCC employee, you must use administrative access for straightforward requests to access to your personnel records. Personnel records are documents containing personal information about you that are, or have been, kept by the ACCC for personnel management purposes.
Straightforward requests are those which:
- contain only your personal information and don’t relate to any other employees
- capture only a small number of documents; generally no more than 20 pages in total.
The ACCC will consider these requests. Proof of identity may be required before any information is released.
If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome, or you aren’t notified of a decision within 30 days, you may then make an FOI request.
Submit an enquiry or phone (02) 6243 1111 to request administrative access to your personnel records.
There is no charge or fee for administrative access.
If you are not satisfied with the way that we have handled your administrative access request, you can make a complaint to:
- the ACCC Chief Executive Officer at GPO Box 3131, Canberra 2601
- the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (if you requested access to your own personal information) at How do I make a privacy complaint?
Information Publication Scheme
We publish a range of information on our website as part of our Information Publication Scheme. This includes the agency’s structure, functions, appointments, annual reports, consultation arrangements, and details of the agency’s freedom of information (FOI) officer.
Information released through FOI requests and provided to parliament are also published.
The information in documents to which we routinely give access is found in: