Under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, or requests for unstructured personal data under the Data Protection Act (DPA), public authorities are not required to comply with expensive requests. Under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) there is no cost ceiling but we can still determine that a request is unreasonable and refuse to provide the information on those grounds. In most cases, however, we will try to work with the applicant to find a solution that is below the threshold and reasonable, and that meets their needs as best we can.
We apply a consistent charging methodology set out below.
If we estimate it would cost us more than £600 for us to respond to an FOI or DPA request, then we need not comply with it.
The £600 limit covers:
- the time taken to determine whether or not we hold the information;
- finding the information
- retrieving the information
- extracting or editing the material.
It does not cover the time taken to consider whether an exemption applies and the public interest test. Time will be charged at a flat rate of £25 per hour per person.
FOI - Charging Fees
For FOI, requests which would cost less than the limit, no standard fee will be charged, but we may charge the full cost of disbursements (photocopying at 10p per single-sided page, printing and posting). We will not charge disbursement fees less than £50. Above that amount we will charge the full amount. For example, where the disbursement fees amount to £51, we would charge £51.
If a request would cost more than the limit, and we are not otherwise obliged by law to answer it, we may request a fee should we choose to answer the request. The maximum fee that we will charge is equivalent to the total estimated costs as above, plus disbursements.
DPA – Charging Fees
The standard disbursement fee for a subject access request is £10. This falls below our £50 lower threshold and therefore no fee is charged. The method of estimating costs for FOI above can be used to set charges for unstructured information. Once again, the £50 threshold applies.
Environmental Information Regulations (EIR)
Under EIR the £600 threshold does not apply and we can charge reasonable costs. These will be calculated as under FOI. If a EIR request appears to cause us an unreasonable amount of work then we will try find a more acceptable solution with you.
Where the fee would be particularly high (for example, if the cost of complying with a request would exceed the limit), we will discuss with you whether you would prefer to modify the request to reduce the cost.
FOI - Aggregating Related Requests
Under FOI, where two or more requests relating to the same or similar information are made by one person, or different persons in concert, or in pursuance of a campaign, the costs of replying to all the requests will be aggregated.
VAT is only chargeable where we are not obliged by law to provide the information (eg cases amounting to over £600 for DPA and FOI requests).
If it turns out that we overestimated costs then a refund will be made. If we underestimated then we will supply the information at the original estimated cost.
A mixed request is a case in which part of the information requested is regulated by one access to information regime, and other parts by other information regimes.
We will separate out the constituent parts of the request for the purposes of calculating what fees may be charged. Maximum fees will be determined according to each separate regime. For example, where a request is for a mixture of an applicant's own personal data, and other information to which the FOI Act applies, then the maximum fee will be the sum of the maximum subject access fee and the maximum fee for providing the remainder of the information calculated under the FOI regime.