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FoI "REVIEW" CHARGE FOR COMMERCIAL USE DOCUMENTS

Executive Summary

FoI "REVIEW" CHARGE FOR COMMERCIAL USE DOCUMENTS is required under an amendment to the Freedom of Information (FoI) enacted Oct. 27. The measure, which was tacked on to the "Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986," mandates FDA and other federal agencies to promulgate regs providing for FoI fee collection "limited to reasonable and standard charges for document search, duplication, and review, when records are requested for commercial use." Previously, FoI charges were limited to document search and duplication, independent of the use (i.e., commercial v. noncommercial). Under the amendment, separate fee schedules are established for four types of requests. "When records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, whose purpose is scholarly or scientific research, or a representative of the news media . . . fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication," the measure states. Under this type of request, fees can be reduced or eliminated if "disclosure of the information is in the public interest . . . and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester." All other FoI requests are subject to search as well as duplication charges. The measure could be a major help to FDA to defray the costs of FoI prospecting. According to FDA's FoI department, the review of requested documents to delete confidential information is the most costly part of FoI operations at the agency. FoI operations at FDA cost approximately $4 mil. in 1985. The amendment notes that "review costs shall include only the direct costs incurred during the initial examination of a document for the purposes of determining whether the documents must be disclosed . . . and for the purposes of withholding any portions exempt from disclosure." Costs incurred "in resolving issues of law or policy that may be raised in the course of processing a request" may not be included in review costs, the measure states. The FoI amendment will become effective in late April 1987, 180 days after the Oct. 27 enactment. Review charges to commercial firms, however, are not to be made until individual agencies issue regs. Agency regs will be issued based on guidelines from the Office of Management & Budget.

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