Irish Government Concedes; Drops Request Fee Plan

2 July 2014

The Irish government has dropped its proposal to charge an upfront fee for requests under its freedom of information law.

The reversal was announced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, as reported in the Journal and the Irish Times.

As part of a larger proposal amend the law, the government had sought to impose a €15 request fee, sparking considerable opposition.

Open Knowledge Ireland “warmly welcomes” Howlin’s announcement, according to a statement.

Howlin said:

The €15 application fee will be abolished for all FOI requests and the Search, Retrieval and Copying fees will only apply where the preparation time for a request exceeds 5 hours. In other words, the vast majority of FOI requests will now be free of charge. Search, retrieval and copying fees would apply where more than five hours work would be required. A cap of €500 is proposed on the total that can be charged.

Howlin’s announcement elaborated:

  • From now on, the first 5 hours (€100) of Search and Retrieval will be free of charge meaning that the majority of FOI requests going forward will have no costs associated with them.
  • Introduction of a cap on the amount of Search Retrieval and Copying fees that can be charged at €500 (25 hours approx.);
  • Introduction of a further upper limit on estimated Search Retrieval and Copying fees at €700 (35 hours) above which an FOI body could refuse to process a request (or if the requester agreed, the request could be processed with full fees applying without limit);
  • Introduction of a definition in the Bill to ensure that there is clarity on the activities for which Search Retrieval and Copying fees can be applied
  • The issue of multi-faceted requests (i.e. multiple requests relating to entirely separate and different issues contained as a single FOI application) can be addressed through the power in the Act to refuse requests on administrative grounds – the removal of the application fee will remove the necessity for these type of requests;
  • The significant reduction in application fees for internal reviews and appeals to the Information Commissioner from €150 and €75 to €50 and €30 respectively had been agreed by the Government in July 2012.
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