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Defense Privacy Board Advisory Opinions
ASSESSING FEES TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FOR FURNISHING RECORDS WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO THE PRIVACY ACT
The Privacy Act authorizes an agency to "establish fees to be charged, if any, to any individual for making copies of his record . . . ." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(f)(5). Office of Management and Budget Privacy Act Guidelines, 40 Fed. Reg. 28949, 28968 (July 9, 1975) and DoD 5400.11 R each point out that a fee may be charged for only the direct cost of making the copy. This guidance also states that if copying is the only means whereby the record can be made available to the individual, reproduction fees will not be assessed.
Therefore, charging fees is discretionary. However, as a general policy, the Department of Defense should not charge Members of Congress for records furnished when requested under the Privacy Act, unless the charge would be substantial. In no event should a fee less than $30.00 be determined substantial. In the case of constituent inquiries involving a substantial fee, a suggestion may be made that the Member of Congress advise the constituent that the information may be obtained by writing the appropriate office and paying reproduction costs. Additionally, the record may be examined at no cost if the constituent wishes to visit the record custodian.