Freedom of information fees guidance
Detailed fees guidance is available in the procedural guidance under fees and aggregation.
- Can I charge a fee for responding to a Freedom of Information request?
- What activities can I consider when assessing whether the appropriate limit will be exceeded?
- How do I calculate costs of the activities?
- What if the request exceeds the 'appropriate limit'?
- What can I charge for if the request does not exceed the appropriate limit?
- What is aggregation?
- When can I aggregate requests?
- How do I calculate the costs of aggregated requests?
Sections 9 and 13 of the Freedom of Information Act allow public authorities to charge for answering requests in certain cases.
The Act provides for public authorities to either charge for or decline requests for information that would cost a public authority either more than £600 for central government or £450 for other public authorities to deal with the request.
This is referred to as the appropriate limit. Public authorities are required to estimate whether a request is likely to breach the 'appropriate limit'.
The activities are limited to those that an authority can reasonably expects to incur in:
- determining whether it holds the information requested
- locating the information or documents containing the information
- retrieving such information or documents
- extracting the information from the document or other information source containing both it and other material not relevant to the request. The cost of redacting relevant but exempt information may not be taken into consideration
£25 is the standard hourly rate that all authorities must use to calculate the staff costs of answering requests.
If you consider it appropriate to charge a fee for dealing with a request, you may also want to consider charging for non-staff costs or disbursements - for instance, photocopying, printing, or posting.
If complying with a request is estimated to exceed the appropriate limit, you should try to offer the requester some advice and assistance to identify whether the scope of the request can be narrowed in order that the information can be supplied free of charge.
If you propose to charge a fee you will need to supply the requester with a fee notice in writing that will specify the specific amount which you propose to charge in order to deal with the request. If the requester does not supply the requested fee by the end of three months from the date the requester was given notice, the public authority is not obliged to comply with the request.
If authorities are relying on other powers to charge in cases above the appropriate limit, it is those powers that will determine how much can be charged and any applicable maximum. (Note that this only applies to the fees that are charged - when calculating whether the appropriate limit is met, all authorities must use the standard rate of £25 per hour.)
Depending on your organisation's policy, it may be appropriate to charge for disbursements (for instance, photocopying, printing or posting), particularly if the information requested is voluminous.
You may also want to consider discussing with the requester how the scope of their request could be narrowed in order to keep the fee charged as little as possible.
As a public authority, you may find that you receive a number of requests from either the same person or different people acting together asking for the same or similar information within a short time of each other. In these circumstances, you may want to consider aggregating these requests as you may want to take an overall view of the resources which would have to be committed to answering all of the requests.
A public authority can only aggregate requests in the following circumstances:
- two or more requests for information have been made to the same public authority
- they must be either from the same person, or from 'different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign'
- the requests must relate to the same or similar information
- they must have been received by the public authority within a space of 60 consecutive working days
Examples of how you can calculate the cost for aggregated requests can be found in the detailed procedural guidance on fees and aggregations.