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.


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. 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.



How much can an authority charge?

If an authority does decide to charge, it 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 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, it can charge you 10% of the difference between these two amounts. So the maximum an authority could charge you would be £50.


For example, if the cost to the authority is £200, it can only charge you £10 (10% of the difference between £200 and £100).


If the total cost to the authority is more than £600, it can refuse your request, but 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. Each authority must publish a schedule of its charges for environmental information.



What can an authority charge for?

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.


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 can't 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 over-payments you have made.



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 shows the estimated fee and how it has been calculated. It also tells you how you can appeal against the fee. A fees notice is often in the form of a letter but it must be clearly identified.


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, read our detailed guidance on fees.




Your Right to Know - BSL Version