(a) NCPC shall charge fees for processing FOIA requests in accordance with the provisions of this section and OMB Guidelines.

(b) For purposes of assessing fees, NCPC shall categorize Requesters into three categories: Commercial Use Requesters; Noncommercial Scientific Institutions, Educational Institutions, and News Media Requesters; and all other Requesters. Different fees shall be charged depending upon the category into which a Requester falls. If fees apply, a Requesters may seek a fee waiver in accordance with the requirements of §602.15.

(c) Search Fees shall be charged as follows:

(1) NCPC shall not charge Search fees to Requests made by Educational Institutions, Noncommercial Scientific Institutions, or Representatives of the New Media. NCPC shall charge Search fees to all other Requesters subject to the restrictions of paragraph (f)(5) of this section even if NCPC fails to locate any responsive Records or if the NCPC withholds Records located based on a FOIA exemption.

(2) For each quarter hour spent by personnel searching for Requested Records, including electronic searches that do not require new programming, the Search fees shall be calculated based on the average hourly General Schedule (GS) base salary, plus the District of Columbia locality payment, plus 16 percent for benefits of employees in the following three categories: Staff Assistant (assigned at the GS 9-11 grades); Professional Personnel (assigned at the GS 11-13 grades); and Managerial Staff (assigned at the 14-15 grades). For a Staff Assistant the quarter hour fee to Search for and retrieve a Requested Record shall be $9.00. If a Search and retrieval cannot be performed entirely by a Staff Assistant, and the identification of Records within the scope of a Request requires the use of Professional Personnel, the fee shall be $12.00 for each quarter hour of Search time spent by Professional Personnel. If the time of Managerial Personnel is required, the fee shall be $18.00 for each quarter hour of Search time spent by Managerial Personnel.

(3) For a computer Search of Records, Requesters shall be charged the Direct Costs of creating a computer program, if necessary, and/or conducting the Search. Direct Costs for a computer Search shall include the cost that is directly attributable to the Search for responsive Records and the costs of the operator's salary for the time attributable to the Search.

(d) Duplication fees shall be charged to all Requesters, subject to the limitations of paragraph (f)(5) of this section. For a paper photocopy of a Record (no more than one copy of which shall be supplied), the fee shall be 10 cents per page for single or double sided copies, 90 cents per page for 812 by 11 inch color copies, and $1.50 per page for color copies up to 11 x 17 inches per page. For copies produced by computer, and placed on an electronic data saving device or provided as a printout, the NCPC shall charge the Direct Costs, including operator time, of producing the copy. For other forms of Duplication, the NCPC shall charge the Direct Costs of that Duplication.

(e) Review fees shall be charged to only those Requesters who make a Commercial Use Request. Review fees will be charged only for the NCPC initial Review of a Record to determine whether an exemption applies to a particular Record or portion thereof. No charge will be made for Review at the administrative appeal level for an exemption already applied. However, Records or portions thereof withheld under an exemption that is subsequently determined not applicable upon appeal may be reviewed again to determine whether any other exemption not previously considered applies. If the NCPC determines a different exemption applies, the costs of that Review are chargeable. Review fees will be charged at the same rates as those charged for a Search under paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

(f) The following limitations on fees shall apply:

(1) If NCPC fails to comply with the time limits in which to respond to a request, NCPC shall not charge Search fees or, in the case of Educational Institutions, Noncommercial Scientific Institutions, or Representatives of the News Media, duplication fees, except as described in paragraphs (f)(2)-(4) of this section.

(2) If NCPC has determined that unusual circumstances as defined by the FOIA apply, and the agency provided timely written notice to the Requester in accordance with the FOIA, a failure to comply with the time limit shall be excused for an additional 10 days.

(3) If NCPC determines that Unusual Circumstances exist, and more than 5000 pages of responsive records are necessary to respond to the Request, NCPC may charge Search fees. NCPC may also charge duplication fees in the case of Educational Institutions, Noncommercial Scientific Institutions, or Representatives of the News Media. The provisions of this paragraph shall only apply if NCPC provides timely written notice of the Unusual Circumstances to the Requester and discusses with the Requester via mail, e-mail or phone (or made at least three good faith efforts to do so) how to effectively limit the scope of the Request.

(4) If a court has determined that exceptional circumstances exist, as defined by the FOIA, a failure to comply with the time limits shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order.

(5) No Search or Review fees shall be charged for a quarter-hour period unless more than half of that period is required for Search or Review.

(6) Except for Requesters of a Commercial Use Request, the NCPC shall provide without charge the first two hours of Search (or the cost equivalent) and the first 100 pages of Duplication (or the cost equivalent);

(7) Except for Requesters of a Commercial Use Request, no fee shall be charged for a Request if the total fee calculated under this section equals $50.00 or less.

(8) Requesters other than those making a Commercial Use Request shall not be charged a fee unless the total cost of a Search in excess of two hours plus the cost of Duplication in excess of 100 pages totals more than $50.00.

(g) If the NCPC determines or estimates fees in excess of $50.00, the NCPC shall notify the Requester of the actual or estimated amount of total fees, unless in its initial Request the Requester has indicated a willingness to pay fees as high as those determined or estimated. If only a portion of the fee can be estimated, the NCPC shall advise the Requester that the estimated fee constitutes only a portion of the total fee. If the NCPC notifies a Requester that actual or estimated fees amount to more than $50.00, the Request shall not be considered received for purposes of calculating the timeframe for a Response, and no further work shall be undertaken on the Request until the Requester agrees to pay the anticipated total fee. Any such agreement shall be memorialized in writing. A notice under this paragraph shall offer the Requester an opportunity to work with the NCPC to reformulate the Request to meet the Requester's needs at a lower cost.

(h) Apart from other provisions of this section, if the Requester asks for, or the NCPC chooses as a matter of administrative discretion to provide a special service—such as certifying that Records are true copies or sending them by other than ordinary mail, the actual costs of special service shall be charged.

(i) The NCPC shall charge interest on any unpaid fee starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the Requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 (Interest and Penalty on Claims) and will accrue from the date of the billing until payment is received by the NCPC. The NCPC shall follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365, 96 Stat. 1749), as amended, and its administrative procedures, including the use of consumer reporting agencies, collection agencies, and offset.

(j) Where the NCPC reasonably believes that one or more Requesters are acting in concert to subdivide a Request into a series of Requests to avoid fees, the NCPC may aggregate the Requests and charge accordingly. The NCPC shall presume that multiple Requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made to avoid fees. Where Requests are separated by a time period in excess of 30 days, the NCPC shall aggregate the multiple Requests if a solid basis exists for determining aggregation is warranted under all circumstances involved.

(k) Advance payments shall be treated as follows:

(1) For Requests other than those described in paragraphs (k)(2) and (3) of this section, the NCPC shall not require an advance payment. An advance payment refers to a payment made before work on a Request is begun or continued after being stopped for any reason but does not extend to payment owed for work already completed but not sent to a Requester.

(2) If the NCPC determines or estimates a total fee under this section of more than $250.00, it shall require an advance payment of all or part of the anticipated fee before beginning to process a Request, unless the Requester provides satisfactory assurance of full payment or has a history of prompt payment.

(3) If a Requester previously failed to pay a properly charged FOIA fee to the NCPC within 30 days of the date of billing, the NCPC shall require the Requester to pay the full amount due, plus any applicable interest, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of any anticipated fee, before the NCPC begins to process a new Request or continues processing a pending Request from that Requester.

(4) If the NCPC requires advance payment or payment due under paragraphs (k)(2) or (3) of this section, the Request shall not be considered received and no further work will be undertaken on the Request until the required payment is received.

(l) Where Records responsive to Requests are maintained for distribution by Agencies operating statutorily based fee schedule programs, the NCPC shall inform Requesters of the steps for obtaining Records from those sources so that they may do so most economically.

(m) All fees shall be paid by personal check, money order or bank draft drawn on a bank of the United States, made payable to the order of the Treasurer of the United States.

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