OA should charge fees that recoup the full allowable direct costs it incurs. Moreover, it shall use the most efficient and least costly methods to comply with requests for documents made under the FOIA. When documents that would be responsive to a request are maintained for distribution by agencies operating statutory-based fee schedule programs (see definition in § 2502.11(b)), such as the NTIS, OA should inform requestors of the steps necessary to obtain records from those sources.
(a)Manual searches for records. OA will charge at the salary rate(s) (i.e., basic pay plus 16 percent) of the employee(s) making the search.
(b)Computer searches for records. OA will charge at the actual direct cost of providing this service. This will include the cost of operating the central processing unit for that portion of operating time that is directly attributable to searching for records responsive to a FOIA request and operator/programmer salary apportionable to the search.
(c)Review of records. Only requestors who are seeking documents for commercial use may be charged for time spent reviewing records to determine whether they are exempt from mandatory disclosure. Charges may be assessed only for the initial review; i.e., the review undertaken the first time OA analyzes the applicability of a specific exemption to a particular record or portion of a record. Records or portions of records withheld in full under an exemption that is subsequently determined not to apply may be reviewed again to determine the applicability of other exemptions not previously considered. The costs for such a subsequent review are assessable.
(d)Duplication of records. Records will be duplicated at a rate of $.15 per page. For copies prepared by computer such as tapes or printouts, OA shall charge the actual cost, including operator time, of production of the tape or printout. For other methods of reproduction or duplication, OA will charge the actual direct costs of producing the document(s). If OA estimates that duplication charges are likely to exceed $25.00, it shall notify the requestor of the estimated amount of fees, unless the requestor has indicated in advance his willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. Such a notice shall offer a requestor the opportunity to confer with agency personnel with the object of reformulating the request to meet his or her needs at a lower cost.
(e)Other charges. OA will recover the full costs of providing services such as those enumerated below when it elects to provide them:
(1) Certifying that records are true copies;
(2) Sending records by special methods such as express mail.
(f) Remittances shall be in the form of a personal check or bank draft drawn on a bank in the United States, or a postal money order. Remittances shall be made payable to the order of the Treasury of the United States and mailed or delivered to the FOIA Officer, Office of Administration, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20503.
(g) A receipt for fees paid will be given upon request. Refund of fees paid for services actually rendered will not be made.
(h)Restrictions on assessing fees. With the exception of requestors seeking documents for a commercial use, OA will provide the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time without charge. Moreover, OA will not charge fees to any requestor, including commercial use requestors, if the cost of collecting a fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself.
(1) The elements to be considered in determining whether the “cost of collecting a fee” are the administrative costs of receiving and recording a requestor's remittance, and processing the fee for deposit in the Treasury Department's special account.
(2) For purposes of these restrictions on assessment of fees, the word “pages” refers to copies of “81/2 × 11” or “11 × 14.” Thus, requestors are not entitled to 100 microfiche or 100 computer disks, for example. A microfiche containing the equivalent of 100 pages or 100 pages of computer printout does meet the terms of the restriction.
(3) Similarly, the term “search time” in this context has as its basis, manual search. To apply this term to searches made by computer, OA will determine the hourly cost of operating the central processing unit and the operator's hourly salary plus 16 percent. When the cost of a search (including the operator time and the cost of operating the computer to process the request) equals the equivalent dollar amount of two hours of the salary of the person performing the search,i.e., the operator, OA will begin assessing charges for a computer search.
[56 FR 5742, Feb. 13, 1991]
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