Charges for Search and Reproduction

Sec. 2502.11  Definitions.

    For the purpose of this part:
    (a) All the terms defined in the Freedom of Information Act apply.
    (b) A statute specifically providing for setting the level of fees 
for particular types of records (5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(vi)) means any 
statute that specifically requires a government agency, such as the 
Government Printing Office (GPO) or the National Technical Information 
Service (NTIS), to set the level of fees for particular types of 
agencies in order to:
    (1) Serve both the general public and private sector organizations 
by conveniently making available government information;
    (2) Ensure that groups and individuals pay the cost of publications 
and other services that are for their special use so that these costs 
are not borne by the general taxpaying public;
    (3) Operate an information dissemination activity on a self-
sustaining basis to the maximum extent possible; or
    (4) Return overdue revenue to the Treasury for defraying, wholly or 
in part, appropriated funds used to pay the cost of disseminating 
government information.

Statutes, such as the User Fee Statute, which only provide a general 
discussion of fees without explicitly requiring that an agency set and 
collect fees for particular documents do not supersede the Freedom of 
Information Act under section (a)(4)(A)(vi) of that statute.
    (c) The term direct costs means those expenditures that OA incurs in 
searching for and duplicating (and in the case of commercial requestors, 
reviewing) documents 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 machinery. Not included 
in direct costs are overhead expenses such as costs of space, and 
heating or lighting the facility in which the records are stored.
    (d) The term search includes all time spent looking for material 
that is responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line 
identification of material within documents. OA employees should ensure 
that searching for material is done in the most efficient and least 
expensive manner so as to minimize costs for both the agency and the 
requestor. For example, employees should not engage in a line-by-line 
search when merely duplicating an entire document would prove the least 
expensive and quicker method of complying with a request. Search should 
be distinguished, moreover, from review of material in order to 
determine whether the material is exempt from disclosure (see paragraph 
(f) of this section). Searches may be done manually or by computer using 
existing programming.
    (e) The term duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a 
document necessary to respond to a FOIA request. Such copies can take 
the form of paper copy, microform, audio-visual materials, or machine 
readable (e.g. magnetic tape or disk), among others.

[[Page 389]]

The copy provided must be in a form that is reasonably usable by the 
    (f) The term review refers to the process of examining documents 
located in response to a request that is for a commercial use (see 
paragraph (g) of this section) to determine whether any portion of any 
document located is permitted to be withheld. It also includes 
processing any documents for disclosure, (e.g., doing all that is 
necessary to excise them and otherwise prepare them for release). Review 
does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues 
regarding the application of exemptions.
    (g) The term `commercial use' request refers to a request from or on 
behalf of one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers 
the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requestor or the 
person on whose behalf the request is made. In determining whether the 
requestor properly belongs in this category, OA must determine the use 
to which a requestor will put the documents requested. Moreover, where 
an OA employee has reasonable cause to doubt the use to which a 
requestor will put the records sought, or where that use is not clear 
from the request itself, the employee should seek additional 
clarification before assigning the request to a specific category.
    (h) The term educational institution refers to a preschool, a public 
or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of graduate 
higher education, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an 
institution of professional education, or an institution of vocational 
education, that operates a program or programs of scholarly research.
    (i) The term non-commercial scientific institution refers to an 
institution that is not operated on a commercial basis (as that term is 
referenced in paragraph (g) of this section) and 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.
    (j) The term representative of the news media refers to any person 
actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to 
publish or broadcast news to the public. The term news means information 
that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the 
public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio 
stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of 
periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as 
disseminators of news) who make their products available for purchase 
and subscription by the general public. These examples are not intended 
to be all-inclusive. Moreover, as traditional methods of news delivery 
evolve (e.g., electronic dissemination of newspapers through 
telecommunications services), such alternative media would be included 
in this category. In the case of free lance journalists, they may be 
regarded as working for a news organization, if they can demonstrate a 
solid basis for expecting publication through that organization, even 
though not actually employed by it. A publication contract would be the 
clearest proof, but OA may also look to the past publication record of a 
requestor in making this determination.

[56 FR 5742, Feb. 13, 1991]

Sec. 2502.12  Fees to be charged--general.

    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 Sec. 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 
    (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.

[[Page 390]]

    (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 
    (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 ``8\1/2\  x  11'' or ``11  x  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 
    (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]

Sec. 2502.13  Fees to be charged--categories of requestors.

    There are four categories of FOIA requestors: commercial use 
requestors educational and non-commercial scientific institutions; 
representatives of the news media; and all other requestors. The 
specific levels of fees for each of these categories are:
    (a) Commercial use requestors. When OA receives a request for 
documents for commercial use, it will assess charges that recover the 
full direct costs of searching for, reviewing for release, and 
duplicating the record sought. Requestors must reasonably

[[Page 391]]

describe the records sought. Commercial use requestors are not entitled 
to two hours of free search time nor 100 free pages of reproduction of 
documents. OA may recover the cost of searching for and reviewing 
records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records (see 
Sec. 2502.14).
    (b) Educational and non-commercial scientific institution 
requestors. OA shall provide documents to requestors in this category 
for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 
pages. To be eligible for inclusion in this category, requestors must 
show that the request is being made as authorized by and under the 
auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought 
for a commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly if the 
request is from an education institution) or scientific (if the request 
is from a non-commercial scientific institution) research. Requestors 
must reasonably describe the records sought.
    (c) Requestors who are representatives of the news media. OA shall 
provide documents to requestors in this category for the cost of 
reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be 
eligible for inclusion in this category, a requestor must meet the 
criteria in Sec. 2502.11(j), and his or her request must not be made for 
commercial use. In reference to this class of requestors a request for 
records supporting the news dissemination function of the requestor 
shall not be considered to be a request that is for a commercial use. 
Requestors must reasonably describe the records sought.
    (d) All other requestors. OA shall charge requestors who do not fit 
into any of the categories above fees that recover the full, reasonable, 
direct cost of searching for and reproducing the records that are 
responsive to the request, except that the first 100 pages and the first 
two hours of search time shall be furnished without charge. Moreover, 
requests for records about the requestors filed in OA's system of 
records will continue to be treated under the fee provisions of the 
Privacy Act of 1974 which permit fees only for reproduction. Requestors 
must reasonably describe the records sought.

[56 FR 5742, Feb. 13, 1991]

Sec. 2502.14  Miscellaneous fee provisions.

    (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 an

[[Page 392]]

amount 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]

Sec. 2502.15  Waiver or reduction of charges.

    Fees otherwise chargeable in connection with a request for 
disclosure of a record shall be waived or reduced where it is determined 
that disclosure is in the public interest because it is likely to 
contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or 
activities of the Government and is not primarily in the commercial 
interest of the requestor.

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