Frequently Asked Questions: FOIA | Federal Trade Commission

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What is a Freedom of Information Act or FOIA request?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives the public the right to make a request for federal agency records.

How do I submit a FOIA request to the FTC?

Submit your request in one of the following ways:

  1. Apply online.

  1. Fax your request to (202) 326-2477.
  2. Send your request by post to the address below. See sample templates for a FOIA request letter and FOIA appeal letter.

Freedom of Information Act Request
General Counsel’s Office
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580

Who can submit a FOIA request to the FTC?

Generally, any member of the public can submit a FOIA request regarding records kept at the FTC.

How long does it take for the FTC to respond to a FOIA request?

We aim to respond within the time limit set by the Freedom of Information Act, which is twenty working days, or approximately one month, but this may vary depending on the complexity of the request. When the FTC requires an extension of time to respond to your request, it will notify you in writing and provide you with an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request.

How much does it cost to make a FOIA request?

There is no upfront fee to make a FOIA request. However, the Freedom of Information Act allows the FTC to charge fees to recover costs associated with processing your request. Fee details can be found here.

How can I check the status of my application?

If you submitted your request through the FTC’s public access link, or PAL, click here.

Or you can email us at [email protected]

Can a request be expedited?

We process requests in the order in which they are received. However, you can request expedited processing of your request if there is a compelling need for a faster response. To qualify for expedited processing, you must prove that: (1) failure to obtain the documents promptly could pose an imminent threat to the life or safety of any person; or (2) your primary job is to disseminate information and there is an urgent need to inform the public about actual or suspected federal government activities. A FOIA officer will respond to your request for expedited processing within ten days of receiving it to let you know if the request has been accepted.

Are some recordings already available to the public?

Yes. Many documents, such as records related to Commission organizational procedures, industry guidelines, rulemaking, court proceedings, consent agreements and investigations, are already publicly available on the FTC website. You can also search the FTC’s Frequently Requested Recordings page for previously released recordings.

Why is certain information exempt or withheld from publication under the FOIA?

All agency records must be made available to the public under the FOIA, except for records that are:

  1. Rightly classified in the interest of national defense or foreign policy (b)(1).
  2. Concerns internal staff rules and practices only (b)(2).
  3. Specifically exempted by other laws (b)(3).
  4. Regarding trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential (b)(4).
  5. Inter-agency or intra-agency privileged memoranda or letters, except in certain circumstances (b)(5).
  6. Personal, medical and similar records, the disclosure of which would constitute a manifestly unjustified invasion of privacy (b)(6).
  7. Investigation records compiled for law enforcement purposes (b)(7).
  8. Contained in or linked to certain examination, operational or condition reports concerning financial institutions (b)(8).
  9. Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, relating to wells (b)(9).

The FTC records that most often fall into one of these categories include documents we have obtained from companies, certain privileged internal communications, personal information, law enforcement records, and rules. and internal staff practices.

Does the FTC require payment in advance?

If the charges exceed $250, the FTC may request payment up front.

Once I have received an invoice for my FOIA request, how do I submit payment?

If you submitted your FOIA request through PAL, log in to your account to make a payment with your credit card.

Alternatively, all checks should be made payable to the US Treasury and addressed to:

Financial Management Office
Mail stop: 776
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580

Please include your FOIA tracking number and invoice number on your check.

What if my FOIA request is denied?

If your request is refused, you have the right to appeal. Appeals must be in writing and include a copy of the initial request letter as well as the initial response letter. A request for discretionary disclosure of exempt information must indicate the requester’s interest in the material sought and the purpose for which it would be used if the request were granted.

Sample Appeal Letter

FOIA appeals are decided by the General Counsel. To ensure an independent review of the issues on appeal, individuals other than those who handled and decided the original application advise the General Counsel on appeals. The General Counsel has the authority to release documents that are exempt from disclosure, but are unlikely to cause harm to the agency’s business, person, or business, if released.

Letters of appeal should be addressed to:

Appeal under the Freedom of Information Act
General Counsel’s Office
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580

What if I have a complaint about a business or telemarketer?

You can file a complaint by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). For more information on filing a consumer complaint, please click here.

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