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e-CFR data is current as of January 21, 2021

Title 16Chapter ISubchapter APart 4 → §4.8

Title 16: Commercial Practices

§4.8   Costs for obtaining Commission records.

(a) Definitions. For the purpose of this section:

(1) The term search includes all time spent looking, manually or by automated means, for material that is responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material within documents.

(2) The term duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a document for the purpose of releasing that document in response to a request for Commission records. Such copies can take the form of paper copy, microform, audio-visual materials, or machine readable documentation such as magnetic tape or computer disc. For copies prepared by computer and then saved to a computer disc, the Commission charges the direct costs, including operator time, of production of the disc or other output format. Where paper documents must be scanned in order to comply with a requester's preference to receive the records in an electronic format, the requester shall pay the direct costs associated with scanning those materials. As set out in §4.8(b), certain requesters do not pay for direct costs associated with duplicating the first 100 pages.

(3) The term review refers to the examination of documents located in response to a request to determine whether any portion of such documents may be withheld, and the redaction or other processing of documents for disclosure. Review costs are recoverable from commercial use requesters even if a record ultimately is not disclosed. Review time includes time spent considering formal objections to disclosure made by a business submitter but does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the release of the document.

(4) The term direct costs means expenditures that the Commission actually incurs in processing requests. Direct costs include the salary of the employee performing work (the basic rate of pay for the employee plus 16 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 document review facilities or the costs of heating or lighting such a facility or other facilities in which records are stored. The direct costs of specific services are set forth in §4.8(b)(6).

(b) Fees. User fees pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 9701 and 5 U.S.C. 552(a) shall be charged according to this paragraph, unless the requester establishes the applicability of a public interest fee waiver pursuant to §4.8(e). The chart summarizes the types of charges that apply to requester categories set out in paragraphs (b)(1)-(b)(3).

Requester categoriesFee charged for all search timeFee charged for all
review time
Duplication charges
CommercialFeeFeeFee charged for all duplication.
Educational, Non-commercial Scientific Institution, or News MediaNo chargeNo chargeNo charge for first 100 pages.
All other requesters (including members of the general public)Fee after two hoursNo chargeNo charge for first 100 pages.

(1) Commercial use requesters. Commercial use requesters will be charged for the direct costs to search for, review, and duplicate documents. A commercial use requester is a requester 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.

(2) Educational requesters, non-commercial scientific institution requesters, and representative of the news media. Requesters in these categories will be charged for the direct costs to duplicate documents, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.

(i) An educational institution is 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. To be in this category, a requester 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 the scholarly research of the institution and are not sought for a commercial or an individual use or goal.

(ii) A non-commercial scientific institution is an institution that is not operated on a commercial basis as that term is referenced in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, and that is operated solely to conduct scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry.

(iii) 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. 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 where they can qualify as disseminators of news) who make their products available for purchase by or subscription by the general public or free distribution to 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 shall be considered to be news-media entities. A freelance journalist shall be regarded as working for a news-media entity if the journalist can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that entity, whether or not the journalist is actually employed by the entity. A publication contract would provide a solid basis for such an expectation, but the past publication record of a requester may also be considered in making such a determination. To qualify for news media status, a request must not be for a nonjournalistic commercial use. A request for records supporting the news dissemination function of the requester is not considered a commercial use.

(3) Other requesters. Other requesters not described in paragraphs (b)(1) or (2) will be charged for the direct costs to search for and duplicate documents, except that the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time shall be furnished without charge.

(4) Waiver of small charges. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (b)(1), (2), and (3) of this section, charges will be waived if the total chargeable fees for a request are under $25.00.

(5) Materials available without charge. These provisions do not apply to public records, including but not limited to Commission decisions, orders, and other public materials that may be made available to all requesters without charge.

(6)(i) Schedule of direct costs. The following uniform schedule of fees applies to records held by all constituent units of the Commission:

Paper to paper copy (up to 8.5 x 14)$0.14 per page.
Converting paper into electronic format (scanning)Quarter hour rate of operator (Clerical, Other Professional, Attorney/Economist).
Other reproduction (e.g., converting from one electronic format to computer disk or printout, microfilm, microfiche, or microform)Actual direct cost, including operator time.
Electronic Services
Compact disc (CD)$3.00 per disc.
DVD $3.00 per disc.
Videotape cassette$2.00 per cassette.
Microfilm Services
Conversion of existing fiche/film to paper$0.14 per page.
Other Fees
Certification$25.00 each.
Express MailU.S. Postal Service Market Rates.
Records maintained at Iron Mountain or Washington National Records Center facilities (records retrieval, refiling, et cetera)Contract Rates.
Other Services as they ariseMarket Rates.

(ii) Search, review and duplication fees. Agency staff is divided into three categories: Clerical, attorney/economist, and other professional. Fees for search and review purposes, as well the costs of operating duplication machinery such as converting paper to electronic format (scanning), are assessed on a quarter-hourly basis, and are determined by identifying the category into which the staff member(s) conducting the search or review or duplication procedure belong(s), determining the average quarter-hourly wages of all staff members within that category, and adding 16 percent to reflect the cost of additional benefits accorded to government employees. The exact fees are calculated and announced periodically and are available from the Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20580; (202) 326-2222.

(7) Untimely responses. (i) Except as provided in paragraphs (b)(7)(ii)-(iv) of this section, search fees for responding to a Freedom of Information Act request will not be assessed for responses that fail to comply with the time limits, as provided at 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)(viii), §4.11(a)(1)(ii) and §4.11(a)(3)(ii), if there are no unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6) and §4.11(a)(1)(ii). Except as provided below, duplication fees will not be assessed for an untimely response, where there are no unusual or exceptional circumstances, made to a requester qualifying for one of the fee categories set forth in paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(ii) If the Commission has determined that unusual circumstances apply and has provided a timely written notice to the requester in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B), the delay in a response is excused for an additional 10 days. If the Commission fails to comply with the extended time limit, it will not charge search fees (or, for a requester qualifying for one of the fee categories set forth in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, will not charge duplication fees).

(iii) If the Commission has determined that unusual circumstances apply and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, the agency may charge search fees (or, for requesters qualifying for one of the fee categories set forth in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, may charge duplication fees) if timely written notice has been provided to the requester and the agency has discussed with the requester via written mail, electronic mail, or telephone (or made not less than 3 good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request.

(iv) If a court determines that exceptional circumstances exist, the Commission's failure to comply with a time limit shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order.

(c) Information to determine fees. Each request for records shall set forth whether the request is made for either commercial or non-commercial purposes or whether the requester is an educational institution, a noncommercial scientific institution, or a representative of the news media. The deciding official (as designated by the General Counsel) will use this information, any additional information provided by the requester, and any other relevant information to determine the appropriate fee category in which to place the requester. See §4.11(a)(3)(i)(A)(3) for procedures on appealing fee category and fee waiver determinations.

(d) Agreement to pay fees. (1) Each request that does not contain an application for a fee waiver as set forth in §4.8(e) shall specifically indicate that the requester will either:

(i) Pay, in accordance with §4.8(b), whatever fees may be charged for processing the request; or

(ii) Pay such fees up to a specified amount, whereby the processing of the request would cease once the specified amount has been reached.

(2) Each request that contains an application for a fee waiver shall specifically indicate whether the requester, in the case that the fee waiver is not granted, will:

(i) Pay, in accordance with §4.8(b), whatever fees may be charged for processing the request;

(ii) Pay fees up to a specified amount, whereby the processing of the request would cease once the specified amount has been reached; or

(iii) Not pay fees, whereby the processing of the request will cease at the point fees are to be incurred in accordance with §4.8(b).

(3) If the agreement required by this section is absent, and if the estimated fees exceed $25.00, the requester will be advised of the estimated fees and the request will not be processed until the requester agrees to pay such fees. If the requester does not respond to the notification that the estimated fees exceed $25.00 within 20 calendar days from the date of the notification, the request will be closed.

(e) Public interest fee waivers—(1) Procedures. A requester may apply for a waiver of fees. The requester shall explain in sufficient detail why a waiver is appropriate under the standards set forth in this paragraph. The application shall also include a statement, as provided by paragraph (d) of this section, of whether the requester agrees to pay costs if the waiver is denied. The deciding official (as designated by the General Counsel) will rule on applications for fee waivers. To appeal the deciding official's determination of the fee waiver, a requester must follow the procedures set forth in §4.11(a)(3).

(2) Standards. (i) The first requirement for a fee waiver is that disclosure will likely contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. This requirement shall be met if the requester establishes that:

(A) The subject matter of the requested information concerns the operations or activities of the Federal government;

(B) The disclosure is likely to contribute to an understanding of these operations or activities;

(C) The understanding to which disclosure is likely to contribute is public understanding, as opposed to the understanding of the individual requester or a narrow segment of interested persons (e.g., by providing specific information about the requester's expertise in the subject area of the request and about the ability and intention to disseminate the information to the public); and

(D) The likely contribution to public understanding will be significant.

(ii) The second requirement for a fee waiver is that the request not be primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. This requirement shall be met if the requester shows either:

(A) That the requester does not have a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; or

(B) If the requester does have a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure, that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the identified commercial interest of the requester so that the disclosure is not primarily in the requester's commercial interest.

(f) Searches that do not yield responsive records. Charges may be assessed for search time even if the agency fails to locate any responsive records or if it locates only records that are determined to be exempt from disclosure.

(g) Aggregating requests. If the deciding official (as designated by the General Counsel) initially, or the General Counsel on appeal, reasonably believes that a requester, or a group of requesters acting in concert, is attempting to evade an assessment of fees by dividing a single request into a series of smaller requests, the requests may be aggregated and fees charged accordingly.

(h) Advance payment. If the deciding official (as designated by the General Counsel) initially, or the General Counsel on appeal, estimates or determines that allowable charges that a requester may be required to pay are likely to exceed $250.00, or if the requester has previously failed to pay a fee within 30 days of the date of billing, the requester may be required to pay some or all of the total estimated charge in advance. Further, the requester may be required to pay all unpaid bills, including accrued interest, prior to processing the request.

(i) Means of payment. Payment shall be made either electronically through the Department of Treasury's pay.gov Web site or by check or money order payable to the Treasury of the United States.

(j) Interest charges. The Commission will begin assessing interest charges on an unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the day on which the bill was sent. Interest will accrue from the date of the billing, and will be calculated at the rate prescribed in 31 U.S.C. 3717.

(k) Effect of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365), as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-134). The Commission will pursue repayment, where appropriate, by employing the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982, as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, the Federal Claims Collection Standards (FCSS), 31 CFR 900-904, and any other applicable authorities in collecting unpaid fees assessed under this section, including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies. The FTC also reserves the legal right to employ other lawful debt collection methods such as alternative dispute resolution and arbitration when appropriate.

[57 FR 10806, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended at 63 FR 45646, Aug. 26, 1998; 64 FR 3012, Jan. 20, 1999; 66 FR 64144, Dec. 12, 2001; 78 FR 15683, Mar. 21, 2014; 82 FR 21686, May 10, 2017]

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