36 CFR § 404.9 - Miscellaneous fee provisions.

§ 404.9 Miscellaneous fee provisions.

(a) Charging interest - notice and rate. ABMC may begin assessing interest charges on an unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the day on which the billing was sent. The fact that the fee has been received by ABMC within the 30-day grace period, even if not processed, will suffice to stay the accrual of interest. Interest will be at the rate prescribed in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the date of the billing.

(b) Charges for unsuccessful search. ABMC may assess charges for time spent searching, even if it fails to locate the records or if records located are determined to be exempt from disclosure. If ABMC estimates that search charges are likely to exceed $25, it shall notify the requester of the estimated amount of fees, unless the requester has indicated in advance his or her willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. Such a notice shall offer the requester the opportunity to confer with agency personnel with the object of reformulating the request to meet his or her needs at a lower cost.

(c) Aggregating requests. A requester may not file multiple requests at the same time, each seeking portions of a document or documents, solely in order to avoid payment of fees. When ABMC reasonably believes that a requester, or a group of requestors acting in concert, has submitted requests that constitute a single request, involving clearly related matters, ABMC may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. One element to be considered in determining whether a belief would be reasonable is the time period over which the requests have occurred.

(d) Advance payments. ABMC may not require a requester to make an advance payment, i.e., payment before work is commenced or continued on a request, unless:

(1) ABMC estimates or determines that allowable charges that a requester may be required to pay are likely to exceed $250. Then, ABMC will notify the requester of the likely cost and obtain satisfactory assurance of full payment where the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees, or require an advance payment of an amount up to the full estimated charges in the case of requesters with no history of payment; or

(2) A requester has previously failed to pay a fee charged in a timely fashion (i.e., within 30 days of the date of the billing). Then, ABMC may require the requester to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest as provided in paragraph (a) of this seciton or demonstrate that he or she has, in fact, paid the fee, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee before the agency begins to process a new request or a pending request from that requester.

(3) When ABMC acts under paragraph (d)(1) or (2) of this section, the administrative time limits prescribed in the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6) (i.e., 20 working days from receipt of initial requests and 20 working days from receipt of appeals from initial denial, plus permissible extensions of these time limits), will begin only after ABMC has received fee payments described in paragraphs (d)(1) and (2) of this section.

(e) Effect of the Debt Collection Act. ABMC will comply with provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365), including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies, where appropriate, to encourage repayment.

(f) Tolling. If the requester has indicated a willingness to pay some designated amount of fees, but the ABMC estimates that the total fee will exceed that amount, ABMC will toll the processing of the request when it notifies the requester of the estimated fees in excess of the amount the requester has indicated a willingness to pay. The agency will inquire whether the requester wishes to revise the amount of fees the requester is willing to pay or modify the request. Once the requester responds, the time to respond will resume from where it was at the date of the notification.

(g) Reducing costs. At any time a request may contact the ABMC FOIA Public Liaison or other FOIA professional to assist in reformulating a request to meet the requester's needs at a lower cost.

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