Schedule of fees.
The purpose of this section is to establish fair and equitable fees to permit the furnishing of records to members of the public while recovering the full allowable direct costs incurred by the Postal Service. The Postal Service will use the most efficient and least costly methods available to it when complying with requests for records.
(b) Standard rates—
(1) Record retrieval.
Searches may be done manually or by computer using existing programming.
(i) Manual search.
The fee for a manual search is $32 per hour (fractions of an hour are rounded to the nearest half hour).
(ii) Computer search.
The fee for retrieving data by computer is the actual direct cost of the retrieval, including computer search time, and personnel cost in effect at the time that the retrieval services are performed. The fees are subject to periodic revision. A copy of the fees are included within the public index. (See appendix A.)
Except where otherwise specifically provided in postal regulations, the fee for duplicating any record or publication is $.15 per page.
The Postal Service may at its discretion make coin-operated copy machines available at any location or otherwise give the requester the opportunity to make copies of Postal Service records at his own expense. Unless authorized by the Records Office, however, no off-site copying shall be permitted of records which, if lost, could not be replaced without inconvenience to the Postal Service.
The Postal Service will normally furnish only one copy of any record. If duplicate copies are furnished at the request of the requester, the $.15 per-page fee shall be charged for each copy of each duplicate page without regard to whether the requester is eligible for free copies pursuant to paragraph (c) or (g) of this section. At his or her discretion, when it is reasonably necessary because of a lack of adequate copying facilities or other circumstances, the custodian may make the requested record available to the requester for inspection under reasonable conditions and need not furnish a copy thereof.
The fee for reviewing records located in response to a commercial use request is $32 per hour (fractions of an hour are rounded to the nearest half hour). Only requesters who are seeking documents for commercial use may be charged for review. “Review” is defined in paragraph (h)(4) of this section; “commercial use” is defined in paragraph (h)(5) of this section.
Paragraphs (b) (1), (2) and (3) of this section also apply to information stored within micrographic systems.
(c) Four categories of fees to be charged.
For the purpose of assessing fees under this section, a requester shall be classified into one of four categories: commercial use requesters; educational and noncommercial scientific institutions; representatives of the news media; and all other requesters. Requesters in each category must reasonably describe the records sought. Fees shall be charged requesters in each category in accordance with the following.
(1) Commercial use requesters.
Fees shall be charged to recover the full direct costs of search, review and duplication in accordance with the rates prescribed in paragraphs (b) (1) through (3) of this section, subject only to the general waiver set out in paragraph (g)(1) of this section. The term “commercial use request” is defined in paragraph (h)(5).
(2) Educational and noncommercial scientific institutions.
Fees shall be charged only for duplication in accordance with paragraph (b)(2) of this section, except that the first 100 pages furnished in response to a particular request shall be furnished without charge. (See also the general waiver provision in paragraph (g)(1) of this section.) To be eligible for the reduction of fees applicable to this category, the requester must show that the request is being made as authorized by and under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly or scientific research. These institutions are defined in paragraphs (h)(6) and (h)(7) of this section, respectively.
(3) Representatives of the news media.
Fees shall be charged only for duplication in accordance with paragraph (b)(2) of this section, except that the first 100 pages furnished in response to a particular request shall be furnished without charge. (See also the general waiver provision in paragraph (g)(1) of this section.) To be eligible for the reduction of fees applicable to this category, the requester must meet the criteria in paragraph (h)(8) of this section, and the request must not be made for a commercial use.
(4) All other requesters.
Fees shall be charged for search and duplication in accordance with paragraphs (b) (1) and (2) of this section, except that the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time shall be furnished without charge. (See also paragraphs (g)(1) and (g)(2) of this section.)
(d) Aggregating requests.
When the custodian reasonably believes that a requester is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests in order to evade the assessment of fees, the custodian may aggregate the requests and charge accordingly. The custodian shall not aggregate multiple requests when the requests pertain to unrelated subject matter. Requests made by more than one requester may be aggregated only when the custodian has a concrete basis on which to conclude that the requesters are acting in concert specifically to avoid payment of fees.
(e) Other costs—
Publications and other printed materials may, to the extent that they are available in sufficient quantity, be made available at the established price, if any, or at cost to the Postal Service. Fees established for printed materials pursuant to laws, other than the Freedom of Information Act, that specifically provide for the setting of fees for particular types of records are not subject to waiver or reduction under this section.
(2) Other charges.
When a response to a request requires services or materials other than the common one listed in paragraph (b) of this section, the direct cost of such services or materials to the Postal Service may be charged, but only if the requester has been notified of the nature and estimated amount of such cost before it is incurred.
(f) Advance notice and payment of fees—
(1) Liability and payment.
The requester is responsible, subject to limitations on liability provided by this section, for the payment of all fees for services resulting from his request, even if responsive records are not located or are determined to be exempt from disclosure. Checks in payment of fees should be made payable to “U.S. Postal Service.”
(2) Advance notice.
To protect members of the public from unwittingly incurring liability for unexpectedly large fees, the custodian shall notify the requester if the estimated cost is expected to exceed $25. When search fees are expected to exceed $25, but it cannot be determined in advance whether any records will be located or made available, the custodian shall notify the requester of the estimated amount and of the responsibility to pay search fees even through records are not located or are determined to be exempt from disclosure. The notification shall be transmitted as soon as possible after physical receipt of the request, giving the best estimate then available. It shall include a brief explanatory statement of the nature and extent of the services upon which the estimate is based and shall offer the requester an opportunity to confer with the custodian or his representative in an attempt to reformulate the request so as to meet his needs at lower cost. The time period for responding to the request shall not run during the interval between the date such notification is transmitted and the date of receipt of the requester's agreement to bear the cost. No notification is required if the request specifically states that whatever cost is involved is acceptable or is acceptable up to a specified amount that covers estimated costs or if payment of all fees in excess of $25 has been waived.
(3) Advance payment.
Advance payment of fees shall not be required, except: (i) When it is estimated that the fees chargeable under this section are likely to exceed $250. If the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees, the custodian shall notify the requester of the likely cost and obtain satisfactory assurance of full payment before commencing work on the request. If the requester has no history of payment, the custodian may require an advance payment of an amount up to the full estimated charge before commencing work on the request.
When a requester has previously failed to pay a fee in a timely fashion (i.e., within 30 days of the date of the billing), the requester shall be required to pay the full amount owed, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee before processing will begin on a new or pending request.
When advance payment is required under paragraphs (f)(3)(i) or (ii) of this section, the time periods for responding to the initial request or to an appeal shall not run during the interval between the date that notice of the requirement is transmitted and the date that the required payment or assurance of payment is received.
(g) Restrictions on assessing fees—
(1) General waiver.
No fees shall be charged to any requester if they would amount, in the aggregate, for a request or a series of related requests, to $10 or less. When the fees for the first 100 pages or the first two hours of search time are excludable under paragraph (c) of this section, additional costs will not be assessed unless they exceed $10.
(2) Certain fees not charged—
(i) All requests except those for commercial use.
Fees shall not be charged for the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time except when the request is for a commercial use as defined in paragraph (h)(5) of this section. When search is done by computer, the fees to be excluded for the first two hours of search time shall be determined on the basis of fee for computer searches then in effect. (See appendix A.) Assessment of search fees will begin at the point when the cost of the search (including the cost of personnel and computer processing time) reaches the equivalent dollar amount of personnel fees for 2 hours.
(ii) Requests of educational and noncommercial scientific institutions, and representatives of the news media.
Fees shall not be charged for time spent searching for records in response to requests submitted by educational and noncommercial scientific institutions or representatives of the news media.
(3) Public interest waiver.
The custodian shall waive a fee, in whole or in part, and any requirement for advance payment of such a fee, when he determines that furnishing the records is deemed to be in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the federal government, and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. This waiver may be granted notwithstanding the applicability of other fee reductions prescribed by this section for requesters in certain categories. In determining whether disclosure is in the public interest for the purposes of this waiver, the following factors may be considered:
The relation of the records to the operations or activities of the Postal Services;
The informative value of the information to be disclosed;
Any contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from disclosure;
The significance of that contribution to the public understanding of the subject;
The nature of the requester's personal interest, if any, in the disclosure requested; and
Whether the disclosure would be primarily in the requester's commercial interest.
(4) Waiver by officer.
Any officer of the Postal Service, as defined in § 221.8, his designee, or the Manager, Records Office may waive in whole or in part any fee required by this part or the requirement for advance payment of any fee.
(5) Fee for other services.
Waivers do not apply for fees for address correction services performed in accordance with section R900 of the Domestic Mail Manual.
As used in this section, the term:
Direct costs include expenditures actually incurred in searching for and duplicating (and in the case of commercial requesters, reviewing) documents to respond to a FOIA request. Direct costs include, for example, the salary of the employee performing work (the basic rate of pay for the employee plus a factor to cover benefits) and the cost of operating duplicating machinery. Not included in direct costs are overhead expenses such as costs of space, and heating or lighting the facility in which the records are stored.
Search includes all time spent looking for material that is responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material within documents. Searches may be done manually or by computer using existing programming. A line-by-line search will be conducted only when necessary to determine whether the document contains responsive information and will not be employed in those instances in which duplication of the entire document would be the less expensive and quicker method of complying with a request. Search does not include review of material to determine whether the material is exempt from disclosure (see paragraph (h)(4) of this section).
Duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a document necessary to respond to a FOIA request. Such copies can take the form of paper copy, microform, audio-visual materials, or machine readable documentation (e.g., magnetic tape or disk), among others. The copy provided must be in a form that is reasonably usable by requesters.
Review refers to the process of examining documents located in response to a request that is for a commercial use (see paragraph (h)(5) of this section) to determine whether any portion of any document located is exempt from mandatory disclosure. It also includes processing any documents for disclosure, e.g., doing all that is necessary to excise them and otherwise prepare them for release. Review does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions. Charges may be assessed only for the initial review, i.e., the first time the applicability of a specific exemption is analyzed. Costs for a subsequent review are properly assessable only when a record or portion of a record withheld solely on the basis of an exemption later determined not to apply must be reviewed again to determine the applicability of other exemptions not previously considered.
Commercial use request refers to a request from or on behalf of one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made. In determining whether a request properly belongs in this category, the Postal Service will look to the use to which the requester will put the documents requested. If the use is not clear from the request itself, or if there is reasonable cause to doubt the requester's stated use, the custodian shall seek additional clarification from the requester before assigning the request to this category.
Educational institution refers to a pre-school, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an institution of professional education, and an institution of vocational education, which operates a program or programs of scholarly research.
Noncommercial scientific institution refers to an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis as that term is defined in paragraph (h)(5) of this section, and which is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry.
Representative of the news media refers to any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Requests by news organizations for information that will be used for the furtherance of the organization's commercial interests, rather than for the dissemination of news to the public, shall be considered commercial use requests. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public. These examples are not intended to be all-inclusive. A “freelance” journalist will be regarded as a representative of the news media if he can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through a news organization, even though not actually employed by it. This may be demonstrated either by a publication contract with the news organization or by the past publication record of the requester.
[52 FR 13668, Apr. 24, 1987, as amended at 53 FR 49983, Dec. 13, 1988; 54 FR 7417, Feb. 21, 1989. Redesignated at 56 FR 56934, Nov. 7, 1991, and amended at 56 FR 57805, Nov. 14, 1991; 59 FR 11550, Mar. 11, 1994; 60 FR 57345, Nov. 15, 1995; 64 FR 41290, July 30, 1999; 68 FR 56559, Oct. 1, 2003; 69 FR 34935, June 23, 2004]