25 CFR 517.9 - Fees.
(a)In general. Fees pursuant to the FOIA shall be assessed according to the schedule contained in paragraph (b) of this section for services rendered by the Commission in response to requests for records under this part. All fees shall be charged to the requester, except where the charging of fees is limited under paragraph (d) or (e) of this section or where a waiver or reduction of fees is granted under paragraph (c) of this section. Payment of fees should be by check or money order made payable to the Treasury of the United States.
(b)Charges for responding to FOIA requests. The following fees shall be assessed in responding to requests for records submitted under this part, unless a waiver or reduction of fees has been granted pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section:
(1)Duplication. The FOIA Officer will honor a requester's preference for receiving a record in a particular form or format where he or she can readily reproduce the record in the form or format requested. When photocopies are supplied, the FOIA Officer shall charge $0.15 per page for copies of documents up to 8 1/2 x 14. For copies of records produced on tapes, compact discs, or other media, the FOIA Officer shall charge the direct costs of producing the copy, including operator time. Where paper documents must be scanned in order to comply with a requester's preference to receive the records in electronic format, the requester must also pay the direct costs associated with scanning those materials. For other methods of reproduction, the FOIA Officer shall charge the actual direct costs of producing the documents.
(i)Manual searches. Whenever feasible, the FOIA Officer will charge at the salary rate (basic pay plus 16% percent for benefits) of the employee or employees performing the search. However, where a homogenous class of personnel is used exclusively in a search (e.g., all administrative/clerical or all professional/executive), the FOIA Officer shall charge $4.45 per quarter hour for clerical time and $7.75 per quarter hour for professional time. Charges for search time less than a full hour will be in increments of quarter hours.
(ii)Computer searches. The FOIA Officer will charge the actual direct costs of conducting computer searches. These direct costs shall include the cost of operating the central processing unit for that portion of operating time that is directly attributable to searching for requested records, as well as the costs of operator/programmer salary apportionable to the search. For requests that require the creation of a new computer program to locate requested records, the Commission will charge the direct costs associated with such program's creation. The FOIA Officer must notify the requester of the costs associated with creating such a program, and the requester must agree to pay the associated costs before the costs may be incurred.
(3)Review fees. Review fees shall be assessed only with respect to those requesters who seek records for a commercial use under paragraph (d)(1) of this section. Review fees shall be assessed at the same rates as those listed under paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section. Review fees shall be assessed only for the initial record review, for example, review undertaken when the FOIA Officer analyzes the applicability of a particular exemption to a particular record or portion thereof at the initial request level. No charge shall be assessed at the administrative appeal level of an exemption already applied.
(c)Statutory waiver. Documents shall be furnished without charge or at a charge below that listed in paragraph (b) of this section where it is determined, based upon information provided by a requester or otherwise made known to the FOIA Officer, that disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest. Disclosure is in the public interest if it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations and is not primarily for commercial purposes. Requests for a waiver or reduction of fees shall be considered on a case by case basis. In order to determine whether the fee waiver requirement is met, the FOIA Officer shall consider the following six factors:
(1)The subject of the request. Whether the subject of the requested records concerns the operations or activities of the government;
(2)The informative value of the information to be disclosed. Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute to an understanding of government operations or activities;
(3)The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from disclosure. Whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to public understanding;
(4)The significance of the contribution to public understanding. Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations or activities;
(5)The existence and magnitude of commercial interest. Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; and, if so
(6)The primary interest in disclosure. Whether the magnitude of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure is primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
(d)Types of requesters. There are four categories of FOIA requesters: Commercial use requesters, educational and non-commercial scientific institutional requesters; representative of the news media; and all other requesters. These terms are defined in § 517.3. The following specific levels of fees are prescribed for each of these categories:
(2)Educational and non-commercial scientific institutions requesters. The FOIA Officer shall charge educational and non-commercial scientific institution requesters for document duplication only, except that the first 100 pages of copies shall be provided without charge.
(4)All other requesters. The FOIA Officer shall charge requesters who do not fall into any of the categories in paragraphs (d)(1) through (3) of this section fees which cover the full reasonable direct costs incurred for searching for and reproducing records if that total costs exceeds $15.00, except that the first 100 pages and the first two hours of manual search time shall not be charged. To apply this term to computer searches, the FOIA Officer shall determine the total hourly cost of operating the central processing unit and the operator's salary (plus 16 percent for benefits). When the cost of the search equals the equivalent dollar amount of two hours of the salary of the person performing the search, the FOIA Officer will begin assessing charges for the computer search.
(e)Restrictions on charging fees.
(1) Ordinarily, no charges will be assessed when requested records are not found or when records located are withheld as exempt. However, if the requester has been notified of the estimated cost of the search time and has been advised specifically that the requested records may not exist or may be withheld as exempt, fees may be charged.
(2) If the Commission fails to comply with the FOIA's time limits for responding to a request, it may not charge search fees or, in cases where records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational institution, non-commercial scientific institution, or representative of the news media, duplication fees, except as described in paragraphs (e)(2)(i)-(iii) of this section.
(i) If the FOIA Officer determines that unusual circumstances, as defined by the FOIA, apply and provides timely written notice to the requester in accordance with the FOIA, then a failure to comply with the statutory time limit shall be excused for an additional 10 days.
(ii) If the FOIA Officer determines that unusual circumstances, as defined by the FOIA, apply and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, then the Commission may charge search fees and duplication fees, where applicable, if the following steps are taken. The FOIA Officer must:
(A) Provide timely written notice of unusual circumstances to the requester in accordance with the FOIA and
(B) Discuss with the requester via written mail, email, or telephone (or made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B)(ii).
(iii) If a court determines that exceptional circumstances exist, as defined by the FOIA, then a failure to comply with the time limits shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order.
(f)Charges for interest. The FOIA Officer may assess interest charges on an unpaid bill, accrued under previous FOIA request(s), starting the 31st day following the day on which the bill was sent to you. A fee received by the FOIA Officer, even if not processed will result in a stay of the accrual of interest. The Commission shall follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982, as amended, its implementing procedures, and the Commission's debt collection regulations located in 25 CFR part 513 to recover any indebtedness owed to the Commission.
(g)Aggregating requests. The requester or a group of requesters may not submit multiple requests at the same time, each seeking portions of a document or documents solely in order to avoid payment of fees. When the FOIA Officer reasonably believes that a requester is attempting to divide a request into a series of requests to evade an assessment of fees, the FOIA Officer may aggregate such request and charge accordingly.
(h)Advance payment of fees. Fees may be paid upon provision of the requested records, except that payment may be required prior to that time if the requester has previously failed to pay fees or if the FOIA Officer determines that total fee will exceed $250.00. When payment is required in advance of the processing of a request, the time limits prescribed in § 517.6 shall not be deemed to begin until the FOIA Officer has received payment of the assessed fee.
(i)Payment of fees. Where it is anticipated that the cost of providing the requested record will exceed $25.00 after the free duplication and search time has been calculated, and the requester has not indicated in advance a willingness to pay a fee greater than $25.00, the FOIA Officer shall promptly notify the requester of the amount of the anticipated fee or a portion thereof, which can readily be estimated. The notification shall offer the requester an opportunity to confer with agency representatives for the purpose of reformulating the request so as to meet the requester's needs at a reduced cost.