Archived - Access to Information Guidelines - Fees

It is government policy that institutions recover fees chargeable under the Act for work done in processing access to information requests.
Date modified: 1999-12-01

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1. General

It is government policy that institutions recover fees chargeable under the Act for work done in processing access to information requests.

Section 11 of the Act and Section 7 of the Regulations provide that a requester may be required to pay a fee for:

  1. making an application;
  2. the costs of reproducing a record;
  3. the time taken to search for a record or prepare any part of it for disclosure where the time exceeds five hours;
  4. the medium used for an alternative format;

Fees cannot be charged for such activities as the following:

  1. the cost of reviewing documents to determine whether they are exempt or excluded;
  2. maintaining statistics or documentation relating to the administration of the Act;
  3. filing (including filing of requests and refiling of records);
  4. providing facilities for processing requests or public access; or
  5. shipping (including the cost of normal handling and first class mailing; excluding the cost of any special delivery systems, such as couriers, over-night delivery, etc.).

If fees have been assessed pursuant to subsection 11(4) of the Act, notification of the requester takes place according to the procedures prescribed in the section on Notices in Chapter 2-4 of these Guidelines.

According to the policy, all fees must be paid by the applicant before access is given.

Generally, payment of substantial sums should be sought by certified cheque or money order payable to the Receiver General of Canada.

Certain institutions, (for example the Bank of Canada and the National Capital Commission) cannot process cheques or money orders payable to the Receiver General. Requesters dealing with the effected institutions should be advised accordingly in the course of conversation and correspondence. Institutions should accommodate requesters until they have been so advised.

2. Deposits

Government institutions may require that a deposit be paid before the search or production of the record is undertaken or the record is prepared for disclosure. When a deposit is requested, the time limit for the processing of the request ceases until it is paid.

Where the required fees or deposits are not received by a government institution, the institution should terminate active processing of the request and notify the requester accordingly (see the Model Letter in Chapter 3-7). As the requester has the right to complain to the Information Commissioner about the fees for one year following the date on which the request was received, government institutions should be prepared to resume processing requests, at a later date.

If the deposit paid (based on the estimated cost) exceeds the actual cost of providing access, according to the policy, government institutions must refund the portion paid in excess by the requester. Deposits are also to be refunded if the fees are waived by the government institution at a later stage in processing.

3. General waiver, reduction or refunds

Subsection 11(6) provides that the head of a government institution may waive, reduce or refund any fees payable under the Act and the Regulations.

The decision to waive, reduce or refund fees should be made on a case-by-case basis by assessing:

  1. whether the information is normally made available without a charge;
  2. the degree to which a general public benefit is obtained through the release of the information.

It should be noted that the circumstances of the requester and the requester's reasons for seeking information may be taken into consideration in a fee waiver decision, even though these are not proper factors to consider in deciding whether or not to grant access.

In view of the costs involved in administering fees, government institutions should consider waiving the requirement to pay fees, other than the application fee, if the amount payable is less than $25.00.

4. Reduction of fees for producing computer records

Regulation 7(3) prescribes the manner in which fees are to be calculated where a record is produced from a machine-readable record, pursuant to subsection 4(3) of the Act.

Under no circumstances should a requester be charged a fee which is higher than the actual and direct costs of producing the record(s) requested.

Where the actual cost of producing a record through the use of a central processor and locally attached devices is less than the fee prescribed by Regulation 7(3)(a), government institutions, as a matter of policy, must reduce any fees payable to the level which represents the actual cost to the institution.

5. Fee to be charged for an alternative format

Under paragraph 7(1)(c) of the regulations the fee charged for the medium used for the alternative format will not exceed the fee which would have been charged under 7(1)(b) for the same record. There is no fee charged for the process of conversion of the record to the alternative format.

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