(a)Charging interest—notice and rate. OA may begin assessing interest on an unpaid bill starting on the 31st day of the month following the date on which billing was sent. The fact that the fee has been received by OA within the thirty day grace period, even if not processed, will suffice to stay the accrual of interest. Interest will be at the rate prescribed in section 3717 of title 31 of the United States Code and will accrue from the date of billing.
(b)Charges for an unsuccessful search. OA 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 OA estimates that search 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 the 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.
(c)Aggregation results. A requestor 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 OA reasonably believes that a requestor, or on rare occasions, a group of requestors acting in concert is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, OA may aggregate any such request 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. OA may not require a requestor to make an advance payment, i.e., payment before work is commenced or continued on a request unless:
(1) OA estimates or determines that allowable charges that a requestor may be required to pay are likely to exceed $250.00. Then, OA will notify the requestor of the likely cost and obtain satisfactory assurance of full payment where the requestor has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees, or require an advance payment of anamount up to the full estimated charges in the case of requestors with no history of payment; or
(2) A requestor has previously failed to pay a fee charged in a timely fashion (i.e., within thirty days of the date of the billing). OA may require the requestor to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest as provided above or demonstate 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 requestor.
When OA 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., ten working days from receipt of initial request and 20 working days from receipt of appeals from initial denial, plus permissible extensions of these time limits) will begin only after OA has received fee payments described above.
(e)Effect of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365). OA should comply with the provisions of the Debt Collection Act, including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies, where appropriate, to encourage repayment.
[56 FR 5744, Feb. 13, 1991]
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