Charge for supply of information about a hospice
Unreasonable to refuse request after earlier deciding to supply information subject to a charge
A District Health Board (DHB) decided to charge for supplying information about a hospice. The requester accepted the charge and paid the deposit. The requester made a second request for information. The DHB then withdrew the charge, refunded the deposit, and refused the first request on the grounds that it was vexatious (section 18(h) of the OIA), and it would require substantial collation or research to make the information available (section 18(f) of the OIA). The requester complained to the Ombudsman about the refusal of his first request.
The Ombudsman formed the provisional opinion that the DHB had made a decision to release the information to the requester, provided that he was prepared to pay the charge. Consequently, when the requester agreed to the charge, and paid the required deposit, he entered into an agreement with the DHB for provision of the information. In these circumstances, the Ombudsman could not see how it was reasonable for the DHB to subsequently withdraw its offer to release the information, and instead inform the requester that his request was refused. The requester was entitled to rely on the DHB’s decision to release the information on payment of a charge. After considering the Ombudsman’s provisional opinion, the DHB agreed to release the information for the original charge, and the Ombudsman discontinued his investigation on the basis that the complaint was resolved.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.