Section 9 of the FoIA allows us to charge a fee for providing information in response to a request. The fee is determined in accordance with the Fees Regulations. The Fee Regulations set out what charges are permissible for information requests. These charges are currently defined as two elements, prescribed costs and disbursements.
Under section 12 of the FoIA, we do not have to comply with a request for information if the cost of compliance exceeds the ‘Appropriate Limit’, this is the limit for the estimated or calculated prescribed costs. The regulations define an ‘Appropriate Limit’, and for non-central Government it is currently £450.
We must still confirm or deny whether we hold the information requested unless the cost of this alone would exceed the appropriate limit.
We can only take into account the costs we reasonably expect to incur in:
- Determining whether we hold the information requested;
- Locating the information, or document containing the information;
- Retrieving the information, or a document containing it; and
- Extracting the information from a document containing it.
The cost will be calculated at £25 per hour per person, regardless of the actual cost or rate of pay. The calculation of the appropriate limit of £450 is equivalent to about 2.5 days of one person’s time charged at the £25 per hour rate.
In considering total costs likely to exceed the appropriate limit, we can aggregate the costs of repeat requests for information from the same applicant/group which are received within a 60 working day period.
Where a reasonable estimate is made that the appropriate limit of £450 for the costs of preparation would be exceeded then we will either:
- Refuse to comply with the request; and/or
- Issue a fees notice to the applicant for the estimated amount.
Where appropriate the applicant may be asked whether they would like to reframe their request so that it does not exceed the appropriate limit of £450, in these circumstances the applicant will have the choice of amending the request or alternatively paying the preparation fees.
Where the limit is exceeded, there is no requirement for us to undertake work up to the limit. We can also include the costs of disbursement as a separate fee.