Case number: 050287
Case 050287. Decision confirming that where records requested contain a mixture of personal and non-personal information appropriate fees are payable - section 47(6A)(c).
The requester sought access to two specified files held by the Department, who sought a €15 fee on the basis that the request was partly for non personal information. Ms X appealed imposition of the fee on the grounds that her request was for personal information.
The Information Commissioner agreed with the Department that the requested records contained information that was not personal to the requester as well as information that was. Section 47(6A)(c) of the Freedom of Information Act (as amended) provides that
"A fee under this subsection shall not be charged if the record or records concerned contains or contain only personal information relating to the requester or, as the case may be, the applicant." As the Commissioner found in this instance that the records contained some information that was not personal to the requester, it follows that the records did not contain only personal information relating to Ms X. Therefore this was not a case where a fee was not payable and, accordingly, the Commissioner affirmed the decision of the Department to charge the fee.
Our Reference: 050287
Dear Ms. X
I refer to your application for a review by me of the decision of the Department of Education and Science ("the Department") to impose a fee in respect of your Freedom of Information ("FOI") request.
This review is being carried out in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Acts 1997 and 2003, and all references to particular sections of the FOI Act, unless otherwise stated, refer to the 1997 FOI Act, as amended.
In carrying out this review I will take into account the submissions made by the Department and also by yourself.
In your letter of appeal dated 14 September, 2005, you stated that "I accept that the information which I sought in my letter of 10 August is not 'personal information'...". Given the nature of the record involved, I accept that at the very least, it contains a mixture of both non-personal and personal information and I must therefore consider the question as to whether a fee is payable under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Fees) Regulations, 2003.
The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act, 2003, provides for a range of FOI fees, including a fee of €15 for applications for records, €75 for internal review and €150 for a review by myself. These fees came into effect from 7 July, 2003, with the making of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 (Fees) Regulations, 2003 - SI No. 264 of 2003.
The Act of 2003 is very definite in relation to the circumstances in which fees do not apply to an FOI request, specifying in Section 47(6A)(c) that:-
"A fee under this subsection shall not be charged if the record or records concerned contains or contain only personal information relating to the requester or, as the case may be, the applicant." (my emphasis).
You will appreciate therefore, that the scope of the fee exclusion provisions in the Amendment Act and the Fees Regulations is very narrow and (with the possible exception of requests pursuant to section 28(6) of the FOI Act, 1997) fees apply in all cases except where the request is for records disclosing only the personal information of the requester. I have already noted that the records covered by your FOI request do not relate exclusively to your personal information and therefore, in accordance with section 47(6A)(c), fees are payable.
Having carried out a review under section 34(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, as amended, I hereby affirm the Department's decision that an FOI fee is payable in respect of your request.
A party to a review, or any other person affected by a decision of mine following a review, may appeal to the High Court on a point of law arising from the decision. Such an appeal must be initiated not later than eight weeks from the date of this letter.