April 30, 2020

How much can we charge for a SAR?

The base line here is that there is no standard charge for a bona fide SAR (Subject Access Request) and except for 2 specific circumstances, charging is not permitted.

Note that the SAR can be charged for if it is “manifestly unfounded or excessive, particularly if it is repetitive”:

  • The definition of “manifestly unfounded” relates to requests that are not actually needed. An example given in the guidance is a complicated SAR that is raised but then the applicant states that they will withdraw the SAR if the organisation reveals other information instead (ie not information normally available under a SAR).
  • This also relates to when the SAR is part of a long string of requests for the same information (repetitive) or if it asks for a repeat of previously requested information in a different format (excessive).

Only if circumstances meet one of the two specific situations, are you able to charge the administrative costs involved – photocopying, file access from storage, printing, postage – but NOT time involved.  The charge would be for the costs with no profit margin added.

Whether you choose to charge at all is up to you - often the costs are minimal and the admin relating to gaining the payment more than is worth pursuing. And then there is the reaction of the individual who thinks it is for free...

It is recommended that your approach to determining what is and is not “manifestly unfounded”  or “excessive” be made clear in your Privacy Policy so that:

  • You are clear within your own organisation what this means
  • You have a clear line of defence if challenged (by the individual or the Courts)
  • You can demonstrate this is not something you made up following receipt of something you did not want to reply to
  • You can ensure the approach lies within the guidelines of the ICO

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