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What is an RFI?

By Venus D.
Updated May 17, 2024
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A Request for Information (RFI) is a document issued by government agencies or businesses. As the title implies, the document serves to request information from the public in order to address or learn about a particular issue. The RFI could be considered a litmus test to determine whether necessary services and goods are available in the market. It is often used for major procurements.

For example, in 2006, the Mine, Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued an RFI regarding rescue equipment and technology. The format of this RFI contained a clear explanation of a public agency’s RFI and a brief summary of the information requested with a description of the issue involved. In accordance with the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, underground coal mine operators are required to submit an emergency response plan (ERP) to MSHA. This plan should detail responses during an event of an emergency and the procedure to help miners trapped underground in cases when evacuation is impossible. The RFI specifically seeks information regarding methods for providing breathable air during such situations.

There are other possible formats for an RFI. Overall, it must inform the reader of the issuing organization's goal and how it tentatively plans to achieve it. In response to the RFI discussed above, suppliers of rescue equipment technology will compete for the opportunity to provide MSHA with the best information. This information may be in a range of different formats, including comments and data. MSHA will not only be able to collect the information it seeks, but it will also be able to compare suppliers in order to choose the one from which it would like to receive rescue equipment.

Request for Proposal (RFP) and Request for Tender (RFT) are similar to RFI. An RFP is a specific request for suppliers to bid for a service or contract. A response to a RFI requires very specific information about the supplier, such as corporate information including financial records and technical capabilities. Request for Quotation (RFQ) is used in place of RFP when price is the determining factor in choosing a supplier.

An RFT advertises the opportunities likely to be available to suppliers. In certain countries, it is required that every business opportunity be advertised through an RFT. In the European Union (EU), for example, any business transaction that exceeds 200,000 US dollars (USD) is required to have an RFT.

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Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Oct 08, 2012

@umbra21 - The good thing about a RFI with the government is that the general public can, in theory, also give their ideas about how something should be done. So, for example, in the mining case shown in the article, if a scientist who is an expert at survival in dangerous conditions was to hear about the RFI he could put in his opinion on what supplies would be needed by the government for the planned emergency action. This kind of general sourcing of information has been made a lot easier because of the internet.

By umbra21 — On Oct 07, 2012

I never realized this was how everyone did business until I was filling in for the person who handled this kind of stuff at a local school (she had fallen sick unexpectedly). She had been unhappy with the current cleaning service they had been using and was using an RFI to start putting out feelers for a new one.

I think she was also hoping that the current cleaning service would get the hint and start working harder. They didn't though, so in the end we went with someone else who was much better.

By anon71834 — On Mar 20, 2010

Explained well with examples.

By anon13732 — On Jun 03, 2008

This is exactly what I was looking for online! Thank you very much (and now I will search your site to find other interesting topics of interest)....

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