1631.11 Fees to be charged - categories of requesters.§ 1631.11 Fees to be charged - categories of requesters.
(a) In general, the Board will charge for processing requests under the FOIA in accordance with the provisions of this section and with the OMB Guidelines. For purposes of assessing fees there are three categories of FOIA requestors - commercial use requestors, non-commercial scientific or educational institutions or news media requesters, and all other requestors.
(1) Fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search, duplication, and review, when records are requested for commercial use. Commercial users are not entitled to two hours of free search time or 100 free pages of reproduction of documents. The full allowable direct cost of searching for, and reviewing records will be charged even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records. A commercial use request is a request that asks for information for a use or a purpose that furthers a commercial, trade, or profit interest, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. The Board's decision to place a requester in the commercial use category will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the requester's intended use of the information. The Board will notify requesters of their placement in this category.
(2) Fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by a representative of the news media. A representative of the news media is any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. The Board will advise requesters of their placement in this category.
(3) Fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, whose purpose is scholarly or scientific research. A noncommercial scientific institution is an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, as defined in paragraph (a)(1) 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. A requester in this category must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are sought to further scientific research and are not for a commercial use. The Board will advise requesters of their placement in this category.
(4) For any request which does not meet the criteria contained in paragraphs (a)(1) through (3) of this section, fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search and duplication, except that the first 100 pages of reproduction and the first two hours of search time will be furnished without charge. If computer search time is required, the first two hours of computer search time will be based on the hourly cost of operating the central processing unit and the operator's hourly salary plus 23.5 percent. When the cost of the computer 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, the Board shall begin assessing charges for computer search. Requests from individuals requesting records about themselves filed in the Board's systems of records shall continue to be treated under the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, which permit fees only for reproduction. The Board's fee schedule is set out in § 1631.14 of this part.
(b) Except for requests that are for a commercial use, the Board may not charge for the first two hours of search time or for the first 100 pages of reproduction. However, 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 the Board believes that a requester or, on rare occasions, a group of requesters acting in concert, is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, the Board may aggregate any such requests and charge accordingly. For example, it would be reasonable to presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30 calendar day period had been made to avoid fees. For requests made over a long period, however, the Board must have a reasonable basis for determining that aggregation is warranted in such cases. Before aggregating requests from more than one requester, the Board must have a reasonable basis on which to conclude that the requesters are acting in concert and are acting specifically to avoid payment of fees. In no case may the Board aggregate multiple requests on unrelated subjects from one requester.
(c) In accordance with the prohibition of section (4)(A)(iv) of the Freedom of Information Act, as amended, the Board shall not charge fees to any requester, including commercial use requesters, if the cost of collecting a fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself.
(1) For commercial use requesters, if the direct cost of searching for, reviewing for release, and duplicating the records sought would not exceed $25, the Board shall not charge the requester any costs.
(2) For requests from representatives of news media or educational and noncommercial scientific institutions, excluding the first 100 pages which are provided at no charge, if the duplication cost would not exceed $25, the Board shall not charge the requester any costs.
(3) For all other requests not falling within the category of commercial use requests, representatives of news media, or educational and noncommercial scientific institutions, if the direct cost of searching for and duplicating the records sought, excluding the first two hours of search time and first 100 pages which are free of charge, would not exceed $25, the Board shall not charge the requester any costs.
(d) Except as provided in paragraphs (d)(1) through (d)(3) of this section, the Board will not assess any search fees (or duplication fees for requesters under (a)(2) or (3) of this section) if the Board fails to comply with the time limits set forth in § 1631.8.
(1) If the Board determines that “unusual circumstances,” as defined in the FOIA, apply and the Board provided a timely written notice to the requester in accordance with § 1631.8, the Board is excused for an additional 10 days from the restrictions of this section.
(2) If the Board has determined that unusual circumstances apply and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, the Board may charge search fees (or duplication fees for requesters under (a)(2) or (3) of this section) if the Board provided a timely written notice to the requester in accordance with § 1631.8 and the Board has discussed with the requester, or made not less than 3 good-faith attempts to do so, how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request.
(3) If a court has determined that exceptional circumstances exist, as defined in the FOIA, the Agency's delay shall be excused in accordance with the court order.[55 FR 41052, Oct. 9, 1990, as amended at 63 FR 41708, Aug. 5, 1998; 82 FR 24827, May 31, 2017]