Reviews and Complaints about your Access Requests

Reviews and complaints about your access requests

Provincial public bodies

Requesting a review

If you have made a request for a record containing your personal information, or a request for correction of your personal information, you have a right to ask the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner to review any decision, act, or failure to act by the public body in respect of that request.

Generally requests for review should be in writing, but if you have difficulty reading or writing in English, the Commissioner’s office will assist you.

In requests for review, the Commission staff assigned to the file are required to attempt mediation first. In general, settlements are preferable to having a solution imposed by the Commissioner after an Inquiry, because the parties have control over settlements. To make a complaint to the public body, you can use this form.

If you are unable to resolve the dispute with the public body , you must write to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to ask for a reviewwithin 30 business days of receiving the public body’s decision. Include your name, address, phone and fax numbers, a copy of your original request to the public body, a copy of the decision of the public body and an explanation of what you want the Commissioner to review. You can also use this form.

If you take longer than 30 business days to send your request for review to the Commissioner, you will have to give an explanation for the delay. The Commissioner will allow the longer time if the public body consents or if circumstances prevented you from getting your review request filed on time. For an overview of the whole process, read this guide.

The review process can take some time. The Commission’s office is allowed 90 working days to investigate your case and consider the arguments. They will assign a Portfolio Officer to read the public body’s decision, to look at the documents you sent and any other relevant documents and may suggest mediation. If you and the public body agree to a mediated settlement, the case is considered resolved. If the mediation does not result in a settlement, then your case will proceed to a formal inquiry.

A formal inquiry is set up like a court case in that both sides make arguments and try to convince the Commissioner to rule in their favour. One big difference between a formal inquiry and a court case is that most formal inquiries are done in writing, so you do not have to go to a hearing room and give evidence orally. Instead, in most cases, the parties all send written submissions (a written explanation of the facts and of the legal argument) to the Commissioner and the other parties. The procedure for sending, receiving, reading and considering the submissions and any other evidence is somewhat formal and the Commissioner has established some rules for inquires, to ensure fairness. To read instructions for written inquiries under FOIPPA, click here.

Making a complaint

The Commissioner is allowed, under s. 42 of FOIPPA, to investigate and attempt to resolve a complaint that:

  • a public body failed to do something it is required by FOIPPA to do;
  • a public body improperly extended the time for responding to a request;
  • a fee charged was inappropriate;
  • a public body had no justification for refusing to make a correction you requested;
  • a public body or its service provider collected, used or disclosed your personal information in breach of FOIPPA.

Again, in most cases the Commissioner will refer you back to the public body to attempt to resolve the complaint directly, unless you have already taken that step or the Commissioner feels that doing so would not be appropriate in the circumstances. Your complaint would then be referred to a Portfolio Officer, who will investigate the facts, hear arguments from all parties, and issue a written report detailing the facts and the Officer’s conclusions.
The Portfolio Officer is allowed to make recommendations to the Commissioner and the public body. If the Portfolio Officer concludes that your rights were violated by the public body, they can recommend a resolution and the Commissioner may order the public body to follow the recommendations. If the Portfolio Officer concludes that the facts do not support your complaint, then the Commissioner may dismiss your complaint.

If you do not agree with the Officer’s conclusions and recommendations, you can ask the Commissioner for a further review. Click here to download a complaint form.

Federal public bodies

You can make a complaint to the federal Privacy Commissioner if you are dissatisfied with any decision, act, or failure to act by the public body in respect of your request.

Visit the website of the OPC to view its guide to making a complaint.

Private organizations

Privacy laws provide individuals with the right of access to their own personal information, the right to request it be corrected when it is incorrect, and the right to file a complaint about a decision made by an organization concerning a personal information request.

You cannot make a request for general information from a private organization, and so you cannot make a complaint or request a review if non-personal information is not provided.

As with public bodies, you should first file a complaint with that organization. To do this, you can use this form. If you’re not satisfied with the organization’s response, you can file a complaint with the OIPC.

In BC, if you are dissatisfied with the response of the private body to your request for your personal information, the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) provides the right to request a review of an organization’s decision.

For complaints about private organizations in Quebec click here, or for Alberta click here.

For private organizations in any province not listed here, you will have to use the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to complain to the federal Privacy Commissioner. Click here to view the complaints guide.

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