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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
§503.43 Fees for services.
(a) Definitions. The following definitions apply to the terms when used in this subpart:
(1) Search means all time spent looking for material that is responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material within documents. Search for material will be done in the most efficient and least expensive manner so as to minimize costs for both the agency and the requester. Search is distinguished, moreover, from review of material in order to determine whether the material is exempt from disclosure. Searches may be done manually or by computer using existing programming.
(2) Duplication means the process of making a copy of a document necessary to respond to a Freedom of Information Act or other request. Such copies can take the form of paper or machine readable documentation (e.g., magnetic tape or disk), among others.
(3) Review means the process of examining documents located in response to a commercial use request to determine whether any portion of any document located is permitted to be withheld. It also includes processing any documents for disclosure, e.g., doing all that is necessary to excise them and otherwise prepare them for release. Review does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions.
(4) Commercial use request means a request from or on behalf of one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made. In determining whether a requester properly belongs in this category, the agency must determine the use to which a requester will put the documents requested. Where the agency has reasonable cause to doubt the use to which a requester will put the records sought, or where that use is not clear from the request itself, the agency will seek additional clarification before assigning the request to a specific category.
(5) Educational institution means a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an institution of professional education, and an institution of vocational education, which operates a program or programs of scholarly research.
(6) Non-commercial scientific institution means an institution that is not operated on a commercial basis as that term is referenced in paragraph (a)(4) of this section, and which is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry.
(7) Representative of the news media means any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term news means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as disseminators of news) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public. These examples are not intended to be all-inclusive. As traditional methods of news delivery evolve (e.g., electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunications services), such alternative media would be included in this category. Freelance journalists, may be regarded as working for a news organization if they can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization, even though not actually employed by it. A publication contract would be the clearest proof, but the agency may also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination.
(8) Direct costs means those expenditures which the agency actually incurs in searching for and duplicating (and in the case of commercial requester, reviewing) documents to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. Direct costs include, for example, the salary of the employee performing the work (the basic rate of pay for the employee plus 17.5 percent of that rate to cover benefits) and the cost of operating duplicating machinery. Not included in direct costs are overhead expenses such as costs of space, and heating or lighting the facility in which the records are stored.
(b) General. (1) The basic fees set forth in paragraph (c) of this section provide for documents to be mailed with postage prepaid. If copy is to be transmitted by registered, certified, air, or special delivery mail, postage therefor will be added to the basic fee. Also, if special handling or packaging is required, costs thereof will be added to the basic fee.
(2) The fees for search, duplication and review set forth in paragraph (c) of this section reflect the full allowable direct costs expected to be incurred by the agency for the service. Costs of search and review may be assessed even if it is determined that disclosure of the records is to be withheld. Cost of search may be assessed even if the agency fails to locate the records. Requesters much reasonably describe the records sought. The following restrictions, limitations and guidelines apply to the assessment of such fees:
(i) For commercial use requesters, charges recovering full direct costs for search, review and duplication of records will be assessed.
(ii) For educational and non-commercial scientific institution requesters, no charge will be assessed for search or review of records. Charges recovering full direct costs for duplication of records will be assessed, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be eligible for inclusion in this category, requesters must show that the request is being made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly (if the request is from an educational institution) or scientific (if the request is from a non-commercial scientific institution) research.
(iii) For representative of the news media requesters, no charge will be assessed for search or review of records. Charges recovering full direct costs for duplication of records will be assessed, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.
(iv) For all other requesters, no charge will be assessed for review of records. Charges recovering full direct costs for search and duplication of records will be assessed excluding charges for the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time. Requests from individuals for records about themselves, filed in a Commission system of records, will be treated under the fee provisions of the Privacy Act of 1984 which permit fees only for duplication.
(v) No fee may be charged for search, review or duplication if the costs of routine collection and processing of the fee are likely to exceed the amount of the fee.
(vi) Documents shall be furnished without any charge or at a reduced charge if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. In determining whether a waiver or reduction of charges is appropriate the following factors will be taken into consideration.
(A) The subject of the request: Whether the subject of the requested records concerns the operations or activities of the government;
(B) The informative value of the information to be disclosed: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute to an understanding of government operations or activities;
(C) The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from disclosure: Whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to public understanding;
(D) The significance of the contribution to public understanding: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations or activities;
(E) The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; and, if so
(F) The primary interest in disclosure: Whether the magnitude of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure is primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
(vii) Whenever it is anticipated that fees chargeable under this section will exceed $25.00 and the requester has not indicated in advance a willingness to pay fees as high as anticipated, the requester will be notified of the amount of the anticipated fee. In such cases the requester will be given an opportunity to confer with Commission personnel with the object of reformulating the request to meet the needs of the requester at a lower cost.
(viii) Interest may be charged record requesters who fail to pay fees assessed. Assessment of interest may begin on the amount billed starting on the 31st day following the day on which the billing was sent. Interest will be at the rate prescribed in section 3717 of title 31 U.S.C., and will accrue from the date of the billings. Receipt of payment by the agency will stay the accrual of interest.
(ix) Whenever it reasonably appears that a requester of records or a group of requesters is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, such requests will be aggregated and fees assessed accordingly. Multiple requests on unrelated subjects will not be aggregated.
(x) The agency may require a requester to make advance payment only when:
(A) A requester has previously failed to pay a fee charged in a timely fashion (i.e., within 30 days of the date of the billing), in which case the requester will be required to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest as provided above, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee before the agency begins to process a new request or a pending request from that requester; or
(B) The agency estimates or determines that allowable charges that a requester may be required to pay are likely to exceed $250, in which case, the agency will notify the requester of the likely cost and obtain satisfactory assurance of full payment where the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees, or will require an advance payment of an amount up to the full estimated charges in the case of requesters with no history of payment.
(xi) Unless applicable fees are paid, the agency may use the authorities of the Debt Collection Act (Pub. L. 97-365), including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies where appropriate to encourage payment.
(xii) Whenever action is taken under paragraphs (b)(2)(viii) and (b)(2)(ix) of this section, the administrative time limits prescribed in subsection (a)(6) of 5 U.S.C. 552 (i.e., 10 working days from receipt of initial requests and 20 working days from receipt of appeals from initial denial, plus permissible extensions of these time limits will begin only after the Commission has received fee payments described above.
(c) Charges for search, review, duplication and certification. (1) Records search will be performed by Commission personnel at the following rates:
(i) Search will be performed by clerical/administrative personnel at a rate of $19 per hour and by professional/executive personnel at a rate of $48 per hour.
(ii) Minimum charge for record search is $19.
(2) Charges for review of records to determine whether they are exempt from disclosure under §503.33 shall be assessed to recover full costs at the rate of $79 per hour. Charges for review will be assessed only for initial review to determine the applicability of a specific exemptions to a particular record. No charge will be assessed for review at the administrative appeal level.
(3) Charges for duplication of records and documents will be assessed as follows, limited to size 81⁄2 ″ × 14″ or smaller:
(i) If performed by requesting party, at the rate of five cents per page (one side).
(ii) By Commission personnel, at the rate of five cents per page (one side) plus $19 per hour.
(iii) Minimum charge for copying is $4.75.
(iv) No charge will be made by the Commission for notices, decisions, orders, etc., required by law to be served on a party to any proceeding or matter before the Commission. No charge will be made for single copies of such Commission issuances individually requested in person or by mail.
(4) The certification and validation (with Federal Maritime Commission seal) of documents filed with or issued by the Commission will be available at $94 for each certification.
(d) To have one's name and address placed on the mailing list of a specific docket as an interested party to receive all issuances pertaining to that docket: $9 per proceeding.
(e) Applications for admission to practice before the Commission for persons not attorneys at law must be accompanied by a fee of $104 pursuant to §502.27 of this chapter.
[49 FR 44401, Nov. 6, 1984, as amended at 52 FR 13683, Apr. 24, 1987; 59 FR 59170, Nov. 16, 1994; 63 FR 50535, Sept. 22, 1998; 67 FR 39859, June 11, 2002; 70 FR 10329, Mar. 3, 2005]