Will the Information Commissioner issue a tool to assist agencies to calculate charges?
No. The Information Commissioner is aware that the Australian Government Solicitor has issued a charges calculator in the past. It is a matter for agencies to determine whether such tools would be of use to them.
Can an agency increase the initial estimate of charges that the applicant agreed to pay?
Yes, in some circumstances if more work was involved than the agency had anticipated. A higher charge can only be imposed if the agency gives the applicant full access to all the documents sought. It is open to an agency or minister, while processing an FOI request, to tell an applicant that a charge may be higher than the estimated charge. See r 10 of the FOI (Charges) Regulations and Part 4 of the Guidelines.
Is the public interest test for charges decisions the same as the public interest test for conditional exemptions?
No, they are separate tests. In exercising the discretion to reduce or waive a charge, an agency or minister must consider ‘whether the giving of access to the document in question is in the general public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public'. See Part 4 of the Guidelines.