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In addition to the application fee charges may be levied to recover the reasonable costs incurred by an agency in processing an FOI request. The amount of these charges is specified by the Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations 2014. For more information about the current charges, please see the Victorian Information Commissioner's website.
The specified charges include those for:
- searching for documents;
- photocopying documents;
- making transcriptions of recorded information;
- supervision of inspection or viewing of documents;
- arrangements for the viewing or hearing of images (i.e. a video tape).
Copying (the most common form of access charge) is charged at 20 cents per black and white A4 page.
In certain cases searching for documents may be charged at 1.5 fee units. Search charges cannot be levied for MP and personal affairs requests and, can only be charged for routine searches not for searches required because the agency has lost or misplaced a document. Applicants cannot be charged for the time taken in assessing or processing documents identified in relation to their request.
Supervision of inspection or viewing is charged at the rate of 1.5 fee units per hour for each quarter hour or part thereof.
Other charges may be levied for cost recovery for the reasonable costs of the agency.
When are charges levied?
Charges can be levied for any FOI request which includes one or more of the activities detailed above with certain exceptions for MP and personal affairs requests.
If the total amount to be charged is estimated to be under $50 the request is processed and the decision letter is sent, with the details of the charges and how they should be paid.
Where the charges are likely to exceed $50 the applicant must be notified and given the opportunity to decide whether they wish to proceed with the request, and if so, to pay a deposit (see section 22(3)). The applicant is notified of this requirement by letter. A fresh 30 day period to complete the request commences when the deposit is received by the agency.
While the decision should be provided to applicants within 30 days in most cases, the documents should not be provided until charges have been received (i.e. send the decision letter to the applicant with a request for the charges to be paid and then send out the documents sought once the charges have been paid)
When are charges not levied
In accordance with the Act, charges other than those for copying or creating a document shall not be made if the applicant’s intended use is of general public interest or benefit, the applicant is a Victorian state MP or if the document sought contains information regarding the personal affairs of the applicant. Additionally, all charges shall be waived if the applicant is impecunious (poor) and they are seeking access to documents containing information regarding their personal affairs.