Return to Sender

Our new practice is to return misdirected information to a FOIA requester. (NARA Identifier 26413096)

As you might be aware if you regularly read our blog (or if you check our mediation program quarterly performance statistics), the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 created a surge in requests for our assistance. We have also received many submissions intended for other federal agencies – including misdirected appeals, certifications of identity, and other sensitive personal information.  Initially, we attempted to pass along all of these misdirected documents to the intended agency. We became concerned, however, that our practice might delay the transmission of the information to the correct agency and potentially place sensitive personal information at risk. To address these concerns, we will now to alert the requester of the error immediately and advise them to contact the agency directly.

Recently, as part of a larger initiative focused on improving customer service, we solicited feedback through the Chief FOIA Officers Council on ways to increase requester understanding of how to contact the agency versus how to request our assistance. As a result of these discussions, OIP issued updated template language for agencies to use in their response letters. If you see any agency FOIA response letters that do a really good job of explaining who customers should contact for assistance, or if an agency’s response is particularly confusing, please let us know!