Applicants are entitled to have access to documents at the lowest reasonable cost (section 4).
The FOI Act and FOI Regulations outline the charges an agency can impose for dealing with an access application (section 16, regulations 3 and 5 and Schedule 1 to the Regulations).
No fees or charges apply for applications that are limited to personal information about the applicant only.
The Information Commissioner has found that charges may be imposed for:
- consulting with third parties, if necessary;
- examining documents, exercising judgment and making decisions on access;
- deleting exempt matter where appropriate;
- preparing a notice of decision; and
- providing access in the manner required.
The Information Commissioner considers that an agency is not entitled to impose a charge for searching for documents. Although section 16(1) of the FOI Act clearly contemplates that a charge for conducting a routine search may be required to be paid by an applicant, no charge for searching for documents is presently prescribed by the FOI Regulations.