12 CFR 1301.12 - Fees for processing requests for Council records.
(a) In general. The Council shall charge the requester for processing a request under the FOIA in the amounts and for the services set forth in paragraphs (b) through (d) of this section, except if a waiver or reduction of fees is granted under paragraph (f) of this section, or if, pursuant to paragraph (e)(4) of this section, the failure of the Council to comply with certain time limits precludes it from assessing certain fees. No fees shall be charged if the amount of fees incurred in processing the request is below $25.
(b) Fees chargeable for specific services. The fees for services performed by the Council shall be imposed and collected as set forth in this paragraph (b).
(1) Duplicating records. The Council shall charge a requester fees for the cost of copying records as follows:
(i) $.15 per page, up to 8 1/2 × 14″, made by photocopy or similar process.
(ii) Photographs, films, and other materials - actual cost of duplication.
(iii) Other types of duplication services not mentioned above - actual cost.
(iv) Material provided to a private contractor for copying shall be charged to the requester at the actual cost charged by the private contractor.
(2) Search services. The Council shall charge a requester for all time spent by its employees searching for records that are responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line identification of responsive information within records, even if no responsive records are found. The Council shall charge the requester fees for search time as follows:
(i) Searches for other than electronic records. The Council shall charge for search time at the salary rate(s) (basic pay plus sixteen (16) percent) of the employee(s) who conduct the search. This charge shall also include transportation of employees and records at actual cost. Fees may be charged for search time even if the search does not yield any responsive records, or if records are exempt from disclosure.
(ii) Searches for electronic records. The Council shall charge the requester for the actual direct cost of the search, including computer search time, runs, and the operator's salary. The fee for computer output shall be the actual direct cost. For a requester in the “other” category, when the cost of the search (including the operator time and the cost of operating the computer to process a request) equals the equivalent dollar amount of two hours of the salary of the person performing the search (i.e., the operator), the charge for the computer search will begin.
(3) Review of records. The Council shall charge a requester for time spent by its employees examining responsive records to determine whether any portions of such record are withholdable from disclosure, pursuant to the FOIA exemptions of 5 U.S.C. 552(b). The Council shall also charge a requester for time spent by its employees redacting any such withholdable information from a record and preparing a record for release to the requester. The Council shall charge a requester for time spent reviewing records at the salary rate(s) (i.e., basic pay plus sixteen (16) percent) of the employees who conduct the review. Fees may be charged for review time even if records ultimately are not disclosed.
(4) Inspection of records in the reading room. Fees for all services provided shall be charged whether or not copies are made available to the requester for inspection. However, no fee shall be charged for monitoring a requester's inspection of records.
(5) Other services. Other services and materials requested which are not covered by this part nor required by the FOIA are chargeable at the actual cost to the Council. Charges permitted under this paragraph may include:
(i) Certifying that records are true copies; and
(ii) Sending records by special methods (such as by express mail, etc.).
(c) Fees applicable to various categories of requesters - (1) Generally. The Council shall assess the fees set forth in paragraph (b) of this section in accordance with the requester fee categories set forth below.
(2) Requester selection of fee category. A requester shall identify, in the initial FOIA request, the purpose of the request in one of the following categories:
(i) Commercial. A 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, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. The Council may determine from the use specified in the request that the requester is a commercial user.
(ii) Educational institution. This refers to a preschool, 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. This category does not include requesters seeking records for use in meeting individual academic research or study requirements.
(iii) Non-commercial scientific institution. This refers to an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, as that term is defined in paragraph (c)(2)(i) 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.
(iv) Representative of the news media. This refers to any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. In this paragraph (c)(2)(iv), the term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news-media entities are television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only if such entities qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase by subscription or by free distribution to the general public. These examples are not all-inclusive. Moreover, as methods of news delivery evolve (for example, the adoption of the electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunications services), such alternative media shall be considered to be news media entities. A freelance journalist shall be regarded as working for a news media entity if the journalist can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that entity, whether or not the journalist is actually employed by the entity. A publication contract would present a solid basis for such an expectation; the Council may also consider the past publication record of the requester in making such a determination.
(v) Other Requester. This refers to a requester who does not fall within any of the categories described in paragraphs (c)(2)(i)-(iv) of this section.
(d) Fees applicable to each category of requester. The Council shall apply the fees set forth in this paragraph, for each category described in paragraph (c) of this section, to requests processed by the Council under the FOIA.
(1) Commercial use. A requester seeking records for commercial use shall be charged the full direct costs of searching for, reviewing, and duplicating the records they request as set forth in paragraph (b) of this section. Moreover, when a request is received for disclosure that is primarily in the commercial interest of the requester, the Council is not required to consider a request for a waiver or reduction of fees based upon the assertion that disclosure would be in the public interest. The Council may recover the cost of searching for and reviewing records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records or no records are located.
(2) Educational and non-commercial scientific uses. A requester seeking records for educational or non-commercial scientific use shall be charged only for the cost of duplicating the records they request, except that the Council shall provide the first one hundred (100) pages of duplication free of charge. To be eligible, the requester must show that the request is made 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 (if the request is from an educational institution) or scientific (if the request is from a non-commercial scientific institution) research. These categories do not include a requester who seeks records for use in meeting individual academic research or study requirements.
(3) News media uses. A requester seeking records under the news media use category shall be charged only for the cost of duplicating the records they request, except that the Council shall provide the requester with the first one hundred (100) pages of duplication free of charge.
(4) Other requests. A requester seeking records for any other use shall be charged the full direct cost of searching for and duplicating records that are responsive to the request, as set forth in paragraph (b) of this section, except that the Council shall provide the first one hundred (100) pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time free of charge. The Council may recover the cost of searching for records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records, or no records are located.
(e) Other circumstances when fees are not charged. Notwithstanding paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) of this section, the Council may not charge a requester a fee for processing a FOIA request if -
(1) Services were performed without charge;
(2) The cost of collecting a fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself;
(3) The fees were waived or reduced in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section; or
(4) The Council fails to comply with any time limit under § 1301.7 or § 1301.11, and no unusual circumstances (as that term is defined in § 1301.7(e)) or exceptional circumstances apply to the processing of the request; or
(5) The requester is an educational or noncommercial scientific institution or a representative of the news media (as described in paragraphs (c)(2)(ii) through (iv) of this section), then the Council shall not assess the duplication fees.
(f) Waiver or reduction of fees. (1) A requester shall be entitled to receive from the Council a waiver or reduction in the fees otherwise applicable to a FOIA request whenever the requester:
(i) Requests such waiver or reduction of fees in writing and submits the written request to the Council together with or as part of the FOIA request, or at a later time consistent with § 1301.5(b)(7) to process the request; and
(ii) Demonstrates that the fee reduction or waiver request is in the public interest because:
(A) Furnishing the information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government; and
(B) Furnishing the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
(2) To determine whether the requester has satisfied the requirements of paragraph (f)(1)(ii)(A) of this section, the Council shall consider:
(i) The subject of the requested records must concern identifiable operations or activities of the federal government, with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated;
(ii) The disclosable portions of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities in order to be “likely to contribute” to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either a duplicative or a substantially identical form, would not be as likely to contribute to such understanding where nothing new would be added to the public's understanding;
(iii) The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester's expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public shall be considered. It shall be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.
(iv) The public's understanding of the subject in question, as compared to the level of public understanding existing prior to the disclosure, must be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent.
(3) To determine whether the requester satisfies the requirement of paragraph (f)(1)(ii)(B) of this section, the Council shall consider:
(i) Any commercial interest of the requester (with reference to the definition of “commercial use” in § 1301.12(c)(2)(i)), or of any person on whose behalf the requester may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. In the administrative process, a requester may provide explanatory information regarding this consideration; and
(ii) Whether the public interest is greater in magnitude than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. The Council ordinarily shall presume that, if a news media requester satisfies the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return shall not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.
(4) Where only some of the records to be released satisfy the requirements for a waiver or reduction of fees, a waiver or reduction shall be granted for those records.
(5) Determination of request to reduce or waive fees. The Council shall notify the requester in writing regarding its determinations to reduce or waive fees.
(6) Effect of denying request to reduce or waive fees. If the Council denies a request to reduce or waive fees, then the Council shall advise the requester, in the denial notification letter, that the requester may incur fees as a result of processing the request. In the denial notification letter, the Council shall advise the requester that the Council will not proceed to process the request further unless the requester, in writing, directs the Council to do so and either agrees to pay any fees that may apply to processing the request or specifies an upper limit (of not less than $25) that the requester is willing to pay to process the request. If the Council does not receive this written direction and agreement/specification within thirty (30) days of the date of the denial notification letter, then the Council shall deem the FOIA request to be withdrawn.
(7) Appeals of denials of requests to reduce or waive fees. If the Council denies a request to reduce or waive fees, then the requester shall have the right to submit an appeal of the denial determination in accordance with § 1301.11. The Council shall communicate this appeal right as part of its written notification to the requester denying the fee reduction or waiver request. The requester shall clearly mark its appeal request and any envelope that encloses it with the words “Appeal for Fee Reduction/Waiver.”
(g) Notice of estimated fees; advance payments. (1) When the Council estimates the fees for processing a request will exceed the limit set by the requester, and that amount is less than $250, the Council shall notify the requester of the estimated costs, broken down by search, review and duplication fees. The requester must provide an agreement to pay the estimated costs, except that the requester may reformulate the request in an attempt to reduce the estimated fees.
(2) If the requester fails to state a limit and the costs are estimated to exceed $250, the requester shall be notified of the estimated costs, broken down by search, review and duplication fees, and must pay such amount prior to the processing of the request, or provide satisfactory assurance of full payment if the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees. Alternatively, the requester may reformulate the request in such a way as to constitute a request for responsive records at a reduced fee.
(3) The Council reserves the right to request advance payment after a request is processed and before records are released.
(4) If a requester previously has failed to pay a fee within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the billing, the requester shall be required to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee before the Council begins to process a new request or the pending request.
(5) When the Council acts under paragraphs (g)(1) through (4) of this section, the administrative time limits of twenty (20) days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) from receipt of initial requests or appeals, plus extensions of these time limits, shall begin only after any applicable fees have been paid (in the case of paragraphs (g)(2), (g)(3), or (g)(4)), a written agreement to pay fees has been provided (in the case of paragraph (g)(1)), or a request has been reformulated (in the case of paragraphs (g)(1) or (g)(2)).
(h) Form of payment. Payment may be made by check or money order paid to the Treasurer of the United States.
(i) Charging interest. The Council may charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the date of the billing until payment is received by the Council. The Council will follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365, 96 Stat. 1749), as amended, and its administrative procedures, including the use of consumer reporting agencies, collection agencies, and offset.
(j) Aggregating requests. If the Council reasonably determines that a requester or a group of requesters acting together is attempting to divide a request into a series of requests for the purpose of avoiding fees, the Council may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. The Council may presume that multiple requests involving related matters submitted within a thirty (30) calendar day period have been made in order to avoid fees. The Council shall not aggregate multiple requests involving unrelated matters.