What might it cost?
Most responses will give you information free of charge. If a fee is charged, it is likely to be small. Authorities are allowed to charge in certain circumstances but, in practice, you'll find that most authorities do not charge for responding to a request.
If you have a disability, and because of that you want information in a particular format, an authority can't pass on to you any extra costs it has to pay to provide it in that format.
Information contained in a publication scheme
Most information in a publication scheme is free of charge, or available for a small fee. If there is a charge the scheme must show what this is. See "About publication schemes".
Requests for other information
If you ask for information which is not included in an authority's publication scheme, in most cases you will not have to pay for it.
An authority can't charge you for the first £100 it costs to provide you with the information. So if the cost to the authority of providing the information to you is £100 or less, you will get it free of charge.
If the cost to the authority is more than £100, but up to and including £600, the authority can charge you 10% of the cost of providing the information (the first £100 worth is always free). So the maximum an authority could charge you would be £50 (this would be where the cost to the authority is £600).
For example, if the cost to the authority is £200, it can only charge you £10 (10% of the difference between £200 and £100):
| Cost to the authority
||How much can the authority charge you
| First £100
|| Nothing - this will be free
| £100 to £200
|| 10% = £10
If the total cost to the authority is more than £600, the authority can refuse your request. In doing so, it should offer to advise you how to reduce the cost by making changes to your request. Authorities can choose to respond to requests which cost more than £600 if they want to, but they may first ask you to pay the full cost above the £600 limit.
Charges for environmental information may differ, but each authority must publish a schedule of its charges for environmental information.
What happens if the authority wants to charge a fee?
The authority must tell you if it is going to charge by sending you a "fees notice" within 20 working days of your request. A fees notice is a notice that shows the estimated fee and how it has been calculated. It also tells you how you can complain about the fee and appeal against it. A fees notice is often in the form of a letter but it must say clearly that it is a fees notice.
In working out the fee, the authority can charge you for:
- staff time to gather the information up to a maximum of £15 per hour
- reasonable costs for photocopying or providing it in another format if you want a copy of the information.
For example, if an authority normally charges 10p a page for photocopies, charging any more than that would not be reasonable; or if provides it on a CD, it can only charge you the cost of buying the CD.
An authority can't charge you for staff time or any other cost associated with deciding whether it has the information or if any exemptions apply.
An authority cannot increase the fee if the actual cost turns out to be more than it estimated in the fees notice. If the cost turns out to be less than it estimated, it should consider refunding any overpayments you have made.
If you receive a fees notice, it is up to you whether you want to pay for the information. You must pay the authority before it will provide the information. If you decide not to pay the fee, then the authority does not have to send you any information. You have three months from the date on the fees notice to decide what you want to do.
Don't forget, you can always contact the authority to discuss the notice with them, as they have a duty to give you advice and assistance.
If you are unhappy with a fees notice, you can ask the authority to review its decision about how much it wants to charge you for the information. The fees notice should tell you how to do this. See also "Unhappy with the response?"
For further information, visit the "" page, which includes a more detailed briefing on fees.
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