On 20 October 2016, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled that the decision on a request for access to information, which concerns a uniform set of facts of life, is to be regarded as a uniform official act with regard to the fees incurred for it. This also applies if the authority responsible for providing information has decided on the request for information with several administrative acts.
The plaintiffs are journalists and, in the course of research on the financial support of the German sports associations, applied to the Federal Ministry of the Interior for access to files according to the Freedom of Information Act. The Federal Ministry partially granted the request for information with more than 60 notices and set fees of more than 12,000 € and expenses of more than 2,000 €. The action was successful before the administrative court. The division of the request for information into numerous individual requests and a corresponding number of official acts subject to a fee violated the prohibition of a deterrent effect of the assessment of fees as stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act. Expenses could also not be charged because the necessary legal basis was lacking. The defendant's appeal was unsuccessful.
The Federal Administrative Court rejected the defendant's appeal. As a rule, the authority decides on a request for access to information by means of an administrative act subject to a fee pursuant to Section 10 (1) IFG. Pursuant to § 10.2 of the Freedom of Information Act (IFG), the fees are to be set within a framework that does not exceed €500, even in the case of higher administrative expenses, so that the requested access to information can be effectively claimed. These requirements must also be observed if the authority issues several notices, for example because of the scope of the information. If a request for access to information relates to a uniform matter of life, its decision - regardless of the number of administrative acts issued - constitutes a uniform official act under the law on fees, which triggers a fee of a maximum of €500. The charging of expenses is precluded by the fact that the parts of the Ordinance on Information Fees relating to this are null and void for lack of a legal basis.
BVerwG 7 C 6.15 - Judgment of 20 October 2016
OVG Berlin-Brandenburg 12 B 26.14 - Judgment of 19 March 2015
VG Berlin 2 K 232.13 - Judgment of 10 July 2014
Source: Press release of the Federal Administrative Court
Goldberg Attorneys at Law 2016