We bring together information on the legal frameworks for the right to information from more than 100 countries.

Costs

THIS IS AN ARCHIVED PAGE. THE INFORMATION BELOW IS NOT REGULARLY UPDATED. LAST PARTIAL UPDATE IS FROM DECEMBER 2012. THE CURRENT UPDATED PAGE CAN BE FOUND HERE.

Overview

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Country Information

The below country information relies heavily on Toby Mendel's publication Freedom of Information: A Comparative Legal Survey, UNESCO, 2008.

Azerbaijan

  • Public bodies are generally required to secure everyone's "free, unrestricted and equal" right to access information (Article 10.1).
  • Access to information shall be free where it is via inspection of the record, the applicant copies it him or herself or no technical support is provided by the public body, presumably including when provision is electronic. It shall also be free if the information is already public.
  • Otherwise, a charge may be levied which shall not exceed the costs incurred to prepare and present the information to the applicant. Within three years, the administrative body responsible for information shall prepare a list of chargeable services, payment procedures and other matters relating to fees. Until that time, these shall be determined byeach public body internally (Articles 26 and 57.2).
  • Where a public body provides incomplete or inaccurate information, the supplementary or correct information should be provided free of charge (Article 22.3).

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Bangladesh

  • The Right to Information Act holds that each and every citizen will have free access to information from government and non-government organisations that will be compelled to divulge the information sought within 20 days of application.

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Bulgaria

  • The Law provides for information to be provided in four different forms, namely inspection of the record, a verbal explanation, a paper copy or another type of copy. The first two forms of access shall be provided free of charge, while charges for the latter two forms shall be according to a schedule determined by the Minister of Finance, which shall not exceed the actual costs incurred.
  • The Law does not elaborate on what this might include, only replication and dissemination costs or also relevant staff costs, but the 2001 Order made it clear that only material costs and not staff time could be charged.
  • The Order sets the rate for each page copied at 0.09 Bulgarian Leva (approximately USD0.07).
  • A justification must be provided to the applicant regarding any fees which are charged. Applicants must be informed on the spot about these forms of access and the charges relating thereto.
  • Persons with disabilities may request access in a form that corresponds to their needs (Articles 20, 21, 26 and 27).

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Chile

  • According to article 11(k) of the RTI law, access to information is free;
  • Only costs of reproducing information and also other values specified by the law to deliver the information will be charged. Non-payment of the fee might cause suspension of presenting information to the applicant.

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Colombia

  • In Colombian legislation fee related issues are considered slightly confusing. According to article 17of the law, the requestor can be charged for "expedition of copies" in case of certain number of copes. The law is silent regarding the number of copies that will stipulate levying the fee.
  • The rate that should not exceed the cost of reproduction is not determined by the law and thus should be set by the official;
  • The law entitles the public body to select the place where copies will be made, if public body cannot copy or if the cost is high.

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Dominican Republic

  • The RTI law guarantees a free access to information and a possibility for everyone to  receive the copies of documents;
  • However, requestor will be charged for the copy of document, as well as for reproducing and searching for information.
  • Cost for copying of information should be reasonable and based on the actual cost of providing information. As for the fee for reproducing and searching the information, it should not undermine the right.
  • It is interesting that different rates can be set for different cases, and moreover free waivers might be used for education, scientific, non-lucrative or public requests.

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Estonia

  • Information is provided for free unless the law prescribes application of direct expenses. Thus, only direct expenses can be claimed.
  • Fees for copies are charged for pages beyond the 21 page. However, no fee should be charged for requests submitted to state and local government institutions.
  • Waivers are possible in case a) collection of expenses is economically inefficient; b) information is needed for research; c) information is needed in order to exercise the rights and freedoms of the person or to perform obligations and the person making the request does not have the financial capacity to cover the expenses.

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Ecuador

Article 4 (b) of the RTI law specifies that access to information shall be free and only costs of reproduction should be paid. Other details in respect with the costs are not regulated by the law.

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Guatemala

  • According to article 18 of the RTI law, requests for information and consulting information should be free;
  • Fees can be charged only for reproduction of information and it cannot exceed the market costs of it;
  • It is noteworthy, that in order to reduce the costs, applicants should be given the opportunity to duplicate information by themselves.

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Honduras

  • In accordance with article 15 of the RTI law, access to information is free of charge, but the applicant maybe charged for the actual costs of producing the information.

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India

  • A fee can be levied and access can be made conditional upon the payment of such a fee, including for information provided in electronic format.
  • The fee has to be 'reasonable'.
  • No fee may be levied on those below the poverty line.
  • No fee may be charged where a public body fails to respect the established timelines.
  • The government may make regulations concerning the fee to be charged (section 27(2)(b)). Such regulations have been made at the central and all state levels, as well as by some courts.
  • The central rules provide for an application fee for requests of Rs. 10 (approximately USD0.25), Rs. 2 (USD0.05) for each page of A4 or letter size photocopying, the actual cost of samples or models, and Rs. 50 for a diskette.
  • The first hour of inspection shall be free and a fee of Rs. 5 shall be charged for each subsequent hour.

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Jamaica

  • Section 12 of the Act provides that applicants shall bear the cost of reproducing documents, although the head of the concerned public body may waive or reduce the fee. Section 13, however, provides that access shall be granted where the "cost incurred by the public authority in granting access has been paid", suggesting that other costs may also be charged. However, the Regulations refer repeatedly and only to reproduction costs (see regulations 10(a), 14(2)(b), 20 and 21(1)) and, in practice, these, along with dissemination costs, are the only fees charged. Regulation 20 also provides for applications to the Minster requesting fee reductions or waivers.

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Japan

  • Fees may be charged for both processing requests and for providing the information, pursuant to a Cabinet Order, provided that these may not exceed actual costs.
  • When establishing the fee structure, "consideration shall be given to make the amount as affordable as possible" and, again pursuant to a Cabinet Order, the head of the public body may reduce or waive the fee in cases of economic hardship or for other special reasons (Article 16).
  • Pursuant to Articles 13 and 14 of the Information Disclosure Enforcement Order, the fee for filing a request is 300 yen (approximately USD2.60), or 200 yen for information held electronically, while access via inspection is 100 yen for 100 pages and the copy fee is 10 yen (approximately USD0.09) per page.
  • Waivers are extremely rare.

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Kyrgyzstan

  • Article 13(1) sets out the general rule that responses to requests for information shall normally be free of charge, although Article 13(2) provides that any postal costs shall be covered by the applicant.
  • Pursuant to Article 13(3), copying costs not exceeding actual costs, and in accordance with a central government price list, may be levied for requests requiring more than five pages to be copied.
  • Fee waivers may be extended to the poor.

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Mexico

  • The fees for obtaining access to information, which must be set out in the Federal Duties Law, 230 may not exceed the cost of the materials used to reproduce the information, along with the cost of sending it.
  • The cost of searching for the information and preparing it is thus excluded (Article 27).
  • Access to personal data is free, although charges may be levied to cover the costs of delivery of this information (Article 24).
  • Currently, allowable charges are 1 peso (USD.09) for a simple photocopy and 20 pesos for a certified copy.

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Netherlands

  • 15% of municipalities see a FOIA as a service where they deliver a product with added value and charge fees
  • There is a Regulation on Wobbing and Costs which allows government bodies to charge for copy costs only. This regulation is in power for all national/federal government bodies. All other government bodies, including all municipalities, act for more than 29 years accordingly, except for the 15%.
  • This 15% charges fees for dealing with a request, deciding on the request, searching the archives, making a copy of a digital document (per file), just for the FOIA-request.

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Nicaragua

  • According to the law, applicants are free to choose the form of access- applicants should be allowed to print documents for urgent consultation, to copy, photocopy and even purchase the items;
  • Fee for the reproduction of information should be reasonable and should not exceed the cost of material used for duplication and cost of delivery;
  • In case of sold items, if the price is fixed, it should not exceed the cost of publication.

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Panama

  • Article 4 of the RTI law similarly to other RTI laws, states that generally requests are free and applicant will be charged only if duplication of information is needed.

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Peru

  • Only costs of copying equal to market rate can be requested;
  • Agencies must state a fee in their "Rules of Administrative Procedures (Texto Unico de Procedimientos Administrativos-- TUPA)" that reflects actual reproduction costs;
  • In January 2007, in a case brought by Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), the Constitutional Court of Peru ruled that the Ministry of Justice had violated the constitutional right of access and the FOI Law by charging costs for copying that exceeded the market rate. The Court, overturning a decision of the Supreme Court (of 5 July 2006), noted that the FOI Law (Art. 20) requires agencies to charge only the reproduction cost; the Court ruled that agencies must state a fee in their "Rules of Administrative Procedures (Texto Unico de Procedimientos Administrativos-- TUPA)" that reflects actual reproduction costs that can in no case be higher than the market rate. As a result of the ruling, the Ministry must reduce its charge per page from 56 to 7 soles. The decision resulted from a Ruling of the Constitutional Court, 9th of January of 2007.

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Romania

  • FOI officers still can't make the difference between FOI request and regular petition. The tendency is to treat all FOI requests as petitions, and thus confound the client as the individual rather than the public.

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South Africa

  • Applicants may be charged fees for requests, both for reproduction of the record and for search and preparation. Where these fees are likely to be above a predetermined limit, the applicant may be asked to make an advance deposit.
  • The Law specifically provides for the minister to exempt any person from paying the fees, to set limits on fees, to determine the manner in which fees are to be calculated, to exempt certain categories of records from the fee and to determine that where the cost of collecting the fee exceeds the value of the fee, it shall be waived (section 22).
  • Regulations adopted by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development in February 2002 set out a schedule of fees for access which, for requests to public bodies, comprises a R35 (approximately USD5.30) fee for processing a request and access fees of R0.60 per page (approximately USD0.10) for photocopying, R5 (approximately USD0.70) for a floppy disk and R40 (approximately USD5.7) for a compact disk.
  • Six hours of staff time is set as the limit before a deposit may be demanded.
  • In an October 2005 Government Notice, the Minister of Justice exempted requestors earning less than R14,712 per annum (approximately USD2,101) from having to pay any of the access/reproduction fees specifi ed above. The same Notice provides that fees may not be charged where the cost of collection would exceed the fee or for requests for personal information.

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Sweden

  • Inspection of a document shall be provided free of charge. Central statutory rates apply to the provisions of copies of documents exceeding nine pages.

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Thailand

  • The Law provides for fees to be charged by public bodies, but only with the approval of the Offi cial Information Commission. Furthermore, due regard must be given when charging fees to the need for concessions for persons with low incomes (section 9).

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Uganda

  • The RTI Law includes only very framework rules on fees. Section 20(1) provides that access should be granted as soon as any fee is paid. No other mention is made of fees in the Law itself, other than to grant the minister responsible for the Law the power to make regulations regarding "any matter relating to the fees including the procedures and guidelines for determining when such fees should be waived or reduced".
  • Such fees must, however, represent only the actual cost of retrieval and reproduction of the information (section 47(1)(b) and (2)).
  • This system has its strengths and weaknesses. It does at least ensure that there is a central set of fee rules, ensuring consistency across public bodies on this important matter, along with, presumably, fee waivers or reductions. On the other hand, inclusion of retrieval costs has the potential to escalate the cost of access considerably. It also means that applicants are somehow made responsible for the consequences of poor record management by public bodies.

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United Kingdom

  • The Law contains two separate systems for fees, one for 'ordinary' request and one which comes into play for more complicated requests.
  • Pursuant to the first, public bodies may make disclosure of information conditional upon payment of a fee and any such fee must be paid within three months (section 9(2)). Such fees must be in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State and these may prescribe that no fee is to be paid in certain cases, set a maximum fee and/or provide for the manner in which fees are to be calculated.
  • Regulations adopted in 2004 provide that only the costs of informing the applicant of the fact that it holds the information and communicating the information to him or her (including reproduction and postage or other transmission costs), but no costs for staff time, may be charged.
  • This regime does not, however, apply to the second fee system which, pursuant to section 12, comes into play when the cost of providing information would exceed such "appropriate limit ... as may be prescribed".
  • The 2004 Regulations set this limit at £600 (approximately USD1234) for central government and parliament and £450 for the wider public sector.
  • In calculating the costs, the time spent determining whether the information is held, and the time spent locating, retrieving and extracting the information may be charged at £25/hour (approximately USD54) (paragraph 4).
  • The cost of multiple requests may be aggregated where two or more requests relating to similar information are received within a period of 60 working days, and are made by the same person or persons who appear to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign.
  • Where the costs would exceed the limit, the public body is not under any obligation to provide the information although, pursuant to section 13, it may still provide it and charge all of the costs noted above to calculate the limit, as well as the costs of reproducing and communicating the information to the applicant (paragraph 7 of the Regulations).

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United States

  • The Law sets out detailed rules on the fees which may be charged for responding to requests for information. Each public body must, after public consultation, promulgate regulations specifying the schedule of fees which may be charged for access to information, as well as the procedures and guidelines for waiving or reducing these fees. The schedules must conform to guidelines promulgated, again after public consultation, by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, which shall provide a uniform schedule of fees for all public bodies (clause (a)(4)(A)(i)).327
  • The Law provides for three different fee systems for different types of request. Requests for commercial use may be billed "reasonable standard charges for document search, duplication, and review". Requests by educational or scientific institutions which are not for commercial purposes may be billed only "reasonable standard charges for document duplication" and all other requests may be charged for search and duplication (clause (a)(4)(A)(ii)).
  • For the latter two categories of document, no fees may be charged for the first two hours of search or for duplication of the first 100 pages of documents. No fee may be charged where the cost of collecting the fee would exceed the value of the fee (clause (a)(4)(A)(iv)).
  • Only direct costs may be levied. As regards any charges for 'review', these shall apply only to the initial examination of the document to determine whether it should be disclosed.
  • Where disclosure is in the public interest because it is, "likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government", records must be provided without charge or at a lower chargethan would otherwise be the case (clause (a)(4)(A)(iii)).
  • This is, in effect, a waiver for the media, as well as for NGOs who can show a public interest use.
  • No advance fee may be charged unless the applicant has already failed to pay a fee or the public body determines that the fee will exceed US$250 (clause (a)(4)(A)(v)).

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United States, New York

  • Under the New York Freedom of Information Law, inspection of records is free, and charges cannot be assessed for search or review time.
  • E-mailed replies cannot be charged at all, while fees can be charged for the reproduction of records.  For photocopies, it's a maximum of 25 cents. For other records, the fee is based on the cost of the storage medium.
  • The highest court of New York held years ago that "compliance with FOIL is neither a gift of, nor waste of public funds", but rather is a "governmental obligation" that is not carried out on a "cost-accounting basis."

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Uruguay

  • The RTI law stipulates that applicant will be charged only for reproducing the information; otherwise there is no charge for access to information.
  • It seems that duplication costs will include only paper and ink costs.

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