Fees and Charging Method Statement

1. Introduction

1.1 This method statement describes the University’s approach to charging for information under Freedom of Information legislation. It relates to requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’) for information published routinely under its Publication Scheme. It forms part of the University Freedom of Information Policy.

1.2 The method statement has been devised with reference to sections 9, 12 and 13 of the Act, the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 and the Information Commissioner’s guidance on charging in relation to Publication Schemes. Appendix A gives the schedule of charges required by section 8(8) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

1.3 There is no flat charge for making a Freedom of Information request but the Act makes provision for the charging of fees and expenses. Charges may be applied

  • for the recovery of direct disbursements (e.g. copying, postage)
  • when the cost of compliance has reached the ‘appropriate limit’ of £450 (calculated at £25 per hour of staff time).

1.4 This method statement should be used alongside the University’s Enquiry Handling Method Statement and the guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

2. Calculating costs

2.1 The University, on receiving a valid request, will estimate the cost of complying with the request. It will take into account the staff time involved in the following activities:

  • determining whether the information requested is held;
  • locating the information, or the documents containing the information;
  • retrieving the information, or the documents containing the information;
  • extracting the relevant information from the document(s) or record(s) containing it (including copying).

2.2 The University will not take into account the time/costs involved in the following activities:

  • checking that a request is valid;
  • considering whether the information falls under one of the Act’s exemptions and applying the exemption;
  • judging whether a request is vexatious or repeated;
  • seeking legal advice;
  • obtaining authorisation to disclose the information;
  • calculating any fee to be charged.

3. Charging for requests

3.1 Charging where estimated costs fall below the appropriate limit (£450)

The University will only charge for the expenses incurred in reproducing, posting or otherwise transmitting or communicating the information (direct disbursements). This will include putting the information into applicants’ preferred format (in so far as it is reasonably practical to do so).

The University will not normally charge for disbursements of less than £5. Disbursements of £5 or over may be charged for in accordance with the schedule of fees below.

3.2 Charging where estimated costs exceed the appropriate limit (£450)

Where the cost of complying with a valid request is estimated to be more than £450 (equivalent to 18 person hours), the University is not obliged to fulfil that request.

The University will generally not provide information in response to a request costing more than £450. Instead, it will ask the applicant whether they would prefer to modify the request to reduce the cost below the limit.

If, as an exception, the University decides to comply with the request, it will charge the applicant for both fees and expenses. This includes the cost of staff time in retrieving and collating the information, the costs of informing the applicant whether the University holds the information, and the costs of replicating and communicating the information to the applicant. The charge will be calculated at the statutory rate of £25 per hour and is liable to VAT at the normal rates.

Where a charge is levied, applicants will be issued with a fees notice. This must be paid within a period of three months before the University will comply with the request (see ‘Fees Notice’ below).

3.3 Charging for multiple requests

If the University receives two or more related requests within a period of 60 consecutive working days either from a single individual, or from two or more individuals who appear to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign, it will aggregate the costs of complying with the requests.

If, when combined, the total estimated costs of complying with the requests exceeds £450, the University will not be obliged to comply with any of the requests.

3.4 Charging for environmental information

Where a request for information includes a request(s) for information covered by other statutory access regimes, the request will be separated into its constituent parts. Charges for environmental information will be made under the terms of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and with reference to the schedule of charges in Appendix A.

3.5 The Fees Notice

Where an applicable charge is to be levied, this will be calculated according to the Fees Regulations and the University will provide the applicant with a written Fees Notice. This will form part of the University’s response to the enquirer. The Notice will set out the details of the proposed fee and the relevant calculations that make up the charge.

In accordance with the Act sections 9(2) and 10(2), the University is not obliged to respond to a request unless the fee is paid within three months of the Fees Notice being sent to the applicant. While the University waits for payment the 20 working day ‘clock’ will stop (stopping the day before the notice is sent and re-starting the day after the fee is received). Where payment is by cheque, the 20 working days will resume once the cheque has cleared.

4. Publication Scheme and Guide to Information

4.1 The University will note where information made available under its Publication Scheme is chargeable in the associated ‘Fee’ field.

4.2 The University will notify the applicant at the time of their request if any charge is payable. It will require payment of any fee in advance of the information/publication being dispatched.

4.3 Electronic documents will be predominantly free of charge from the University website, and as far as reasonably practicable, datasets will be provided in a format which is capable of re-use.

4.4 The University will aim to supply hard copy information free of charge wherever possible. It may have to make a charge to recover directly incurred costs. Charges are most likely to apply in the following circumstances.

  • Printing, copying and postage
    To recover the costs of photocopying, postage, the provision of information in another format or of multiple copies.

    Where this cost is minimal (under £5) a charge will generally not be made. The University, however, reserves the right to apply a charge (in accordance with the Publication Scheme and this policy) where it feels that the recovery of costs is warranted by the size, bulk or format of the information requested or where such information is requested in an alternative format and conversion is necessary.

  • ‘Commercial’ publications

    Information contained in commercially available publications or through commercially available services (e.g. an e-journal subscription service, the University’s Online Store) will be charged for at current commercial rates and as advertised.

  • Information from Archives and Special Collections

    The Borthwick Institute for Archives’ Research Service is a paid research service operated in respect of the Borthwick’s extensive archival holdings, which date from the twelfth century. The Research Service allows the University to recover research fees for retrieving and researching material in the archives, which require special research and retrieval expertise and skill.

    Where an archival document or out-of-print publication held in the archives or special collections is requested a charge will be made for the provision of a copy.

    The University will always try to effect applicants’ preferences for the format in which they wish to receive their information. However, in circumstances where archival material is requested account will necessarily be taken of the age and physical condition of the document(s) containing the information (Archive Preservation Policy).

    This may impact on the University’s ability to provide access to a copy of the information and the choice of copying options and formats available.

5. Schedule of fees

5.1 A schedule of fees for the provision of copies will be provided in accordance with section 8(8) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (Appendix A refers).

5.2 The schedule will give the standard costs involved in the University’s supply of information. No charge will be made for personal inspection of the information or for accessing public registers.

6. Complaints about charging

6.1 Any applicant who believes they are subject to an unfair charge can follow the University’s Complaints and Review Procedure  or contact the Information Commissioner.

7. Oversight

7.1 The Information Security Board, chaired by the Director of Information, will monitor the effectiveness of this method statement and carry out regular reviews.

Appendix A

Schedule of Fees

A4 photocopy (black and white) per sheet 10p
A4 photocopy (colour) per sheet 30p
A3 photocopy (black and white) per sheet 20p
A3 photocopy (colour) per sheet 60p
Postage   Individual quote to be obtained. Calculated on cost basis with reference to national postage rates.
University/commercial publications per item As advertised (e.g. through University website, Publication Scheme and University Online Store at http://www.york.ac.uk, publishers and retailers).
Research and reprographic services associated with archives and special collections materials held by the Borthwick Institute for Archives, including the University Archive   As advertised at http://www.york.ac.uk/borthwick/

Document history and status

05 December 2012 Approved by Information Policy Executive
13 December 2012 Approved by Information Security Board
29 January 2016 Reviewed and approved by Information Security Board
14 May 2018 Reference to subject access requests removed.

Status

Review cycle: Three yearly

Date of next review: January 2019