Fees for Providing Information to FOISA Requests
The Freedom of Information (Fees for Required Disclosure) Regulations 2004 state that the University may charge for the projected costs of locating, retrieving, collating and providing information. Any estimate of projected costs does not take into account the effort in determining whether the University holds the requested information or whether an exemption may apply.
The first £100 of valid projected costs must be waived. The Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office must be contacted if the estimate of the cost of answering a request will exceed the £100.
The EIR do not require charges to be made, but Scottish public authorities have discretion to make a reasonable charge for environmental information. Please see EIR charging policy for further details.
There is a separate charging procedure for information that is made accessible via the University's Publication Scheme. This procedure is contained in the Introduction to the Publication Scheme. Any fees for information made available by the Publication Scheme must be clearly stated in the relevant section of the Publication Scheme.
It is essential that all actions, calculations, and decisions in the processing of an information request involving the payment of a fee are recorded to provide an audit trail.
How to calculate the estimated cost
All estimates of the cost must be precise, justifiable, and documented. Any cost estimate must not exceed the actual cost price. The Scottish Information Commissioner, if the case went to an appeal, may require evidence as to how costs were attributed. The Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office is ready to give advice on calculating estimated costs.
- Provide a detailed breakdown of the tasks involved in answering the information request.
- The estimated costs cover the cost of specific staff time, reprographics costs, plus postage and packaging.
- Estimate the staff time to just locate, retrieve and reproduce the information. Include any reasonable amount of managerial time.
- Exclude the any costs involved in determining whether the information is held and determining whether any exemptions might apply.
- The maximum cost of staff time is £15 per hour per member of staff including pension and National Insurance costs but not overheads - See Salary Scales for various grades of staff as provided by HR.
- Do NOT round up the cost of staff time to the nearest hour but calculate the appropriate fraction of an hour.
- Estimate the reprographic costs. Black and white photocopies/ printouts of web pages or other documents are charged for at 10p per A4 sheet.
- Estimate the costs for providing the information on CD or other media if that is requested by the applicant.
- Estimate the cost of post and packaging based on the cost of the Royal Mail Second Class post unless an alternative delivery method has been requested.
How to calculate the actual fee
- If the estimated cost is less than £100, then there is no fee to the applicant.
- If the estimated cost is more than £100 but less that £600, then the actual Fee to the applicant is 10% of the difference [or one tenth of the difference] between the estimated cost and £100.
- If the estimated cost is more than £600, then the University does not have to supply the information.
- VAT is not applicable for the fees.
What to do if a fee is applicable
- The University is required to assist the applicant, so check whether it is possible to offer relevant information for a lesser amount or for no charge. If it is possible, contact the applicant accordingly.
- If the fee is minimal, consider whether it is practical and sensible to seek payment of the charge.
- If a fee is to be charged, full details of the calculations must be immediately sent to the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office who will (a) check the validity of the calculations, (b) issue a formal fees notice to the applicant, and (c) record the date and value of the fees notice to ensure a full audit trail.
- The fees notice must be issued well within the 20 days time limit for the response to the information request.
- The issue of the fees notice will 'stop the clock' for the response to the information request until payment is received.
- No information must be provided to the applicant until the fee has been paid.
What to do upon payment of the fee
- All fees notice payment requests should be directed to the Data Protection & Freedom of Information Office.
- The Data Protection & Freedom of Information Office will request a postal address and telephone number from applicants wishing to pay a fees notice in order to raise an invoice with the University's Finance Office.
- The University's Finance Office will issue an invoice directly to applicants and instructions on how to pay the fee will be supplied on the invoice.
- Upon receipt of payment, the response time to the information request recommences (i.e. the 'clock resumes').
- The Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office will (a) acknowledge receipt of payment, (b) advise the applicant that the request will now be actioned, and (c) advise the University department handling the information request that payment has been received and the residual time left to fully process the information request.
- If the payment of the fee 'bounces', the Finance Office will commence procedures to recover the debt.
- If no payment of the fee is received within three months of the date of issue of the fees notice, the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office will write to the applicant to confirm that the information requested is no longer required.
- If the applicant is dissatisfied with the fee, the applicant can request a review, as specified in the fees notice.
What to do if the estimated cost is greater than £600
- Immediately contact the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office with full details of the calculations and state that the fee limit has been exceeded.
- The Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office will (a) check the validity of the calculations, and (b) liaise with the applicant to determine whether some relevant information can be provided as a lesser cost.
- If the information request cannot be modified the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office will advise the applicant that the fees limit has been exceeded and that the University does not have to supply the information.
For further information on charging fees please see the guidance on Fees and Excessive Cost of Compliance produced by The Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner.