Are fees really waived if the request took longer then 20 days?
“For other users – an agency may withhold documents for one request if another request went unpaid. Keep careful track, though, of the timeline for the request – for federal requests, if the request took longer than the statutory window (20 business days, sometimes 30 if the agency requests an extension in the appropriate manner), then the agency cannot charge fees for the request. ” I found this previously on the forums. Is this really true? So basically any request I make to a backlogged agency is free?
The DOJ Office of Information Policy has an explainer that outlines when an agency must waive fees if it doesn’t meet the 20 business day deadline (or a bit longer with a proper extension).
tl;dr – Definitely push back on fees when the agency takes too long to respond. In most cases, the agency cannot assess fees.
The above link is a Department of the Interior memorandum describing that search fees will generally not be assessed if FOIA deadlines exceeded.
However, reality can be another thing.