What you should know about filing a transparency complaint at the EU ombudsmans office

Just a beautiful picture of the sky

Do you file a complaint when a European institute or agency denies you access to information? If you do, read on to find what you’ll need to keep in mind. Thanks to Fergal O’Regan, head of complaints and inquiries unit, at the EU Ombudsman office for sharing these tips at DataHarvest+.

EU institutions only

The European ombudsman only investigates complaints about maladministration in European institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The Court of Justice of the European Union is an exception: it falls outside the Ombudsman’s mandate.

EU related isn’t enough

Complaints against national, regional or local authorities within the European Union can’t be investigated by the ombudsman. Not even when the complaint relate to EU matters. The activities of national courts or ombudsmen and complaints against businesses or private individuals also won’t be treated.

Don’t wait & be nice

Filing a complaint needs to be done within two years after you’d became aware of the matter you’d like to complain about. Also, you’re obliged to reach out the institution first to try resolve the matter. Just be nice, and make a phone call and send an e-mail. Maybe the institution you’re requesting the information from wants to help you, but don’t know how.

Pick your language

You can file your complaint by e-mail, no lawyer needed. Best part of it? You can write the e-mail in any of the 23 EU languages. Easy as pie.

Not binding

Unfortunately nothing the EU ombudsman decides is legally binding. Though often suggestions are taken into account, though institutions don’t need to. Every now and than European bodies decide to ignore the saying of the ombudsman.

Decisions made by the court are legally binding. But having said that, if a court rules, it is not a guarantee you’ll get the documents. The other party could protest and delay the process.

Send that e-mail

Even though it’s still possible to print out your complaint and send it by post, you don’t have to. You can just file your complaint by sending an e-mail – easy as pie. At the European Ombudsmans office all complaints will be available in paper format upon request.

More information

Read more about the work of the EU ombudsman in this PDF.