5 CFR § 1820.7 - Fees.

§ 1820.7 Fees.

(a) In general. OSC provides the first two hours of search time and the first 100 pages of duplication free of charge to all requestors. In exceptional circumstances, OSC may charge fees. At the discretion of the Special Counsel, OSC may exempt certain requestors from search and duplication fees, including PPP complainants and subjects; Hatch Act complainants and subjects; Hatch Act advisory opinion requestors; whistleblowers; and USERRA complainants. OSC charges commercial users for search, review, and duplication fees under the FOIA in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, except where a waiver or reduction of fees is granted under paragraph (h) of this section. OSC charges duplication fees, but not search fees, to educational or non-commercial scientific institutions; and to representative of the news media or news media requestors. OSC charges both search fees and duplication fees to all other requestors. If an exempted requestor abuses its exempt fee status to file numerous, duplicative, and/or voluminous FOIA requests, OSC may suspend the requestor's exempt status and charge search and duplication fees. OSC may require up-front payment of fees before sending copies of requested records to a requestor. Requestors must pay fees by submitting to OSC's FOIA Officer a check or money order made payable to the Treasury of the United States. See generally Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines (hereinafter OMB Fee Guidelines), 52 FR 10,012, 10,017-18 (Mar. 27, 1987).

(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

All other requestors means all requestors who do not fall into the categories of commercial use, educational institution, noncommercial scientific institution, and representatives of the news media.

Commercial use request means a request from or on behalf of an individual who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers commercial, trade, or profit interests, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. If OSC determines that the requestor seeks to put the records to a commercial use, either because of the nature of the request or because OSC has reasonable cause to doubt a requestor's stated use, OSC shall provide the requestor with a reasonable opportunity to clarify.

Direct costs mean those expenses that OSC incurs in searching for and duplicating (and, in the case of commercial use requests, reviewing) records to respond to a FOIA request. Direct costs include, for example, the salary of the employee performing the work (the basic rate of pay for the employee plus 16 percent of that rate to cover benefits) and the cost of operating duplicating equipment. Direct costs do not include overhead expenses such as rent, heating, or lighting the record storage facility.

Duplication means the reasonable direct cost of making copies of documents.

Educational institution means any school that operates a program of scholarly research. See OMB Fee Guidelines, 52 FR at 10,019. To be in this category, a requestor must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scholarly research.

Non-commercial scientific institution means an entity that is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry and are not for commercial use.

Representative of the news media or news media requestor means any individual 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. A non-exhaustive list of news media entities includes print newspapers, electronic outlets for print newspapers, broadcast and cable television networks and stations, broadcast and satellite radio networks and stations, internet-only outlets, and other alternative media as methods of news delivery evolve. For “freelance” journalists to be regarded as working for a news organization, they must demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization, whether print or electronic. A requestor seeking to qualify as a news media requestor must not be seeking the requested records for a commercial use. The requestor's news-dissemination function is not considered to be a commercial use.

Review means the process of examining a record located in response to a request in order to determine whether any portion of the record is exempt from release. Review includes redacting exempt material, and otherwise evaluating and preparing the records for release. Review includes time spent obtaining and considering any formal objection to release made by a business submitter under § 1820.8(f). Review does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues about the application of exemptions. OSC may charge for review costs in connection with commercial use requests even if a record ultimately is not released.

Search means the process of looking for and retrieving records or information responsive to a FOIA request, as well as page-by-page or line-by-line identification of responsive information within records.

(c) Fees. OSC charges the following fees for responding to FOIA requests:

(1) Search.

(i) The first two hours of search are free. OSC may charge for time spent searching even if it fails to locate responsive records, or even if OSC determines that located records are exempt from release.

(ii) OSC charges $5.50 per quarter hour spent by clerical personnel in searching for and retrieving a requested record; $9.00 per quarter hour of search time spent by professional personnel; and $17.50 per quarter hour for search assistance from managerial personnel.

(iii) OSC charges the direct costs of conducting electronic searches, including the costs of operator or programmer staff time apportionable to the search.

(iv) OSC may charge additional costs in accordance with the applicable billing schedule established by NARA for requests requiring the retrieval of records from any Federal Records Center.

(2) Duplication. OSC charges all non-exempt requestors duplication fees after the first 100 pages. OSC's duplication fee for a standard paper photocopy of a record will be 25 cents per page. For copies produced by computer, such as discs or printouts, OSC will charge the direct costs, including staff time, of producing the copy. For other forms of duplication, OSC will charge the direct costs of that duplication.

(3) Review. OSC charges review fees to commercial use requestors. OSC will not charge for review at the administrative appeal level.

(d) Notice of anticipated fees in excess of $25.00. OSC shall notify the requestor of the actual or estimated fees when OSC determines or estimates that fees charged under this section would exceed $25.00, unless the requestor has indicated a willingness to pay fees at that level or if OSC waived fees before undertaking the search. OSC will not conduct a search or process responsive records until OSC and the requestor reach an agreement on the fees. If a requestor wants to pay a lower amount than $25.00, the fee notice will offer the requestor an opportunity to work with OSC to reformulate or narrow the request to try to lower the anticipated fees.

(e) Charges for other services. OSC will notify requestors in advance if OSC intends to charge additional fees to provide special services, such as shipping records by other than ordinary mail.

(f) Aggregating separate requests. OSC may aggregate requests and charge appropriate fees where OSC reasonably believes that a requestor or a group of requestors seek to avoid fees by dividing a request into a series of requests. OSC may presume that multiple such requests made within a 30-day period were divided in order to avoid fees. OSC will aggregate requests separated by more than 30 days only where a reasonable basis exists for determining that aggregation is warranted under the circumstances involved.

(g) Advance payments.

(1) For requests other than those described in paragraphs (g)(2) and (3) of this section, OSC will not require the requestor to make an advance payment before work is begun or continued on a request. Payment owed for work already completed (that is, pre-payment after processing a request but before copies are sent to the requestor) is not an advance payment.

(2) OSC may require advance payment up to the amount of the entire anticipated fee before beginning to process the request if OSC determines or estimates that a total fee to be charged under this section will exceed $250.00.

(3) OSC may require the requestor to make an advance payment in full of the anticipated fee where a requestor has previously failed to pay a properly charged FOIA fee within 30 business days of the date of billing.

(h) Requirements for waiver or reduction of fees.

(1) OSC will furnish records responsive to a request without charge or at a charge reduced below that established under paragraph (c) of this section where OSC determines, based on all available information, that the requestor has demonstrated that:

(i) Release of the requested records is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government; and

(ii) Release of the records is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requestor.

(2) To determine whether the first fee waiver requirement is met, OSC will consider the following factors:

(i) Whether the subject of the requested records concerns a direct and clear connection to “the operations or activities of the government,” not remote or attenuated.

(ii) Whether the release is “likely to contribute” to an understanding of government operations or activities. 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 release of records already in the public domain is unlikely to contribute to such understanding.

(iii) Whether release of the requested records will contribute to “public understanding.” The release must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of individuals interested in the subject. OSC shall consider a requestor's expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public. A representative of the news media presumptively satisfies this consideration.

(iv) Whether the release is likely to contribute “significantly” to public understanding of government operations or activities. The requestor must demonstrate that the release would significantly enhance the public's understanding of the subject in question.

(3) To determine whether the second fee waiver requirement is met, OSC will consider the following factors:

(i) Whether the requestor has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested release. OSC shall consider any commercial interest of the requestor (with reference to the definition of “commercial use” in paragraph (b)(1) of this section), or of any individual on whose behalf the requestor may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested release. Requestors shall be given an opportunity to provide explanatory information about this consideration.

(ii) Whether any identified commercial interest in the disclosure, is equal to or less than that of any identified public interest. OSC ordinarily shall presume that a news media requestor has satisfied the public interest standard. Release to data brokers or others who primarily compile and market government information for direct economic return shall be presumed not to primarily serve the public interest.

(4) Where only a portion of the records to be released satisfies the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver shall be granted for that portion.

(5) Requests for the waiver or reduction of fees should address the factors listed in paragraphs (h)(1), (2), and (3) of this section, insofar as they apply to each request. OSC fee reduction or waiver decisions may consider the cost-effectiveness of its allocation of administrative resources.

(i) No assessment of fees. OSC may not assess any search fees if it misses the statutory 20-business-day deadline to respond to the request, except under paragraphs (i)(1) and (2) of this section.

(1) If OSC determined that unusual circumstances apply and OSC provided a timely written notice to the requestor, OSC may extend the 20-day deadline by 10 business days. OSC may not assess any search fees, however, if it misses the extended deadline.

(2) OSC may charge search fees if the search yield would exceed 5,000 pages, and if OSC provides a timely written notice to the requestor.

(ii) [Reserved]