Charge for supply of Customs policy
Full remission of labour component of the charge in the public interest—accessibility of policies and guidelines affecting persons
The Customs Service (Customs) charged $2,037.80 to supply a copy of its policies on checking passengers and their baggage, and the requester complained to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman noted that this type of information is covered by section 22 of the OIA, which provides a right of access to the internal rules that agencies use to make decisions affecting people. He considered that release of policies and procedures about how searches are carried out, and the rights afforded to those whose person and baggage is searched, would be likely to enhance public awareness of Customs’ role at the border and help ensure that that role is carried out properly and that Customs is accountable for its actions. The Ombudsman found that the public interest in general availability of the information made Customs’ decision to charge one requester a substantial amount unreasonable. In the Ombudsman’s view, Customs was only justified in charging reasonable photocopying costs, which were calculated in accordance with the Charging Guidelines to be $18.20. The Ombudsman also encouraged Customs to make the information available to the public online.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.