Charging of fees by data custodians

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Charging of fees by data custodians

Guidance note 2023:9

This guidance provides information about data custodians and what fees they may charge data users for services performed in dealing with a data sharing request under the DATA Scheme.

 

Under the DATA Scheme, data custodians may charge data users fees for services performed in dealing with a data sharing request (see section 140 of the Data Availability and Transparency Act 2022 (the Act)).

Any fees charged must be in accordance with applicable policies of the Australian Government. This includes the Australian Government Charging Framework (2023) and the Australian Government Cost Recovery Policy (2023) which have been developed to support the legislative responsibilities of Commonwealth entities, as detailed in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA), and the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement (2015).  

Applying the Framework and the Guidelines, charging for data services under the DATA Scheme is charging for commercial services and the pricing model to be applied is cost recovery. Among other things, this means any fees charged should be the marginal cost of providing the data and not exceed the cost of providing the service.

This guidance note has been prepared for data sharing under the DATA Scheme. It could be applicable to all data sharing activities by Australian Government bodies, as consistency and transparency in charging for data services improves the experience of data users and is simpler for agencies to manage.

ONDC has published a separate guidance note on charging of fees by accredited data service providers.

What services do Data Custodians perform under the DATA Scheme

A data custodian may charge a data user a fee for services performed by it or another entity on behalf of the data custodian in dealing with a data sharing request. Services may include:

  • developing data sharing agreements where the development of that agreement is a complex exercise that includes negotiation of the application of the data sharing principles
  • extracting, manipulating, interpreting, processing and/or presenting data to fulfil a data sharing request
  • services that improve the quality, governance or management of the data where required to meet the data request
  • triaging the data sharing request and providing a cost estimate for meeting complex data sharing requests, and
  • activities performed by an accredited data service provider (ADSP) on behalf of the data custodian.

For example, a response to share data under the Scheme made by an accredited user, the data custodian may decide to share de-identified data with the accredited user. If the data custodian eng ages an ADSP to perform the de-identification data service, the cost of the ADSP performing the service may be taken into account if the data custodian charges a fee to the data user.

Principles for recovering costs

The following principles guide data custodians in determining how to calculate and recover the costs of data sharing.

Principle 1: Take a transparent and consistent approach to charging across all data users

Charging for data sharing should be transparent and comparable for requests of similar complexity for all data users and follow a similar pattern across agencies and across sharing schemes. An agency’s charging model under the DATA Scheme should be similar to their standard practice.

Principle 2: Only recover the costs that relate to the data sharing project

Only the costs of sharing data which are related to the data sharing project should be recovered. Data custodian should not charge for broader data management activities or inflate costs as a deterrent for data sharing.

Principle 3: Data custodians can choose to cover the costs of data sharing

The data custodian may choose to waive the cost of data sharing, including:

  • having considered whether charging for the data service will be cost-effective, and
  • when the project would generate a significant public good and/or is aligned to the core business of the agency, for example, sharing data to inform public health responses to public health emergencies.

Note: a condition of some Commonwealth grants is that grant funds cannot be returned to the Commonwealth. This means that some research projects will not be able to pay the Commonwealth for data services.

Method for calculating the costs

Potential methods to determine fees include calculating the cost based on the staff time required to provide the services (for example, an hourly rate or person-days required to perform the services) and non-staff costs to provide the services such as IT costs.

If the data user incurs external service fees to assist in managing a request (i.e. ADSP fees or other service provider fees) those fees may be included in the data user fees.

It is for the data custodian and accredited user to agree on whether payment is required before or after the service is provided.

Charges should be disclosed to the data user once the data custodian agrees to the data request. Once agreed by the data user, the financial arrangements may be included in the Data Sharing Agreement. The recommended pathway for charging for a more complex request under the DATA Scheme is outlined in the figure below.

Outline of fees timeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For data sharing requests made through Dataplace, the steps for recovering costs will be included as part of the data request and data sharing agreement process.

Developing a policy and procedure for charging

Data custodians should:

  • develop and publish a policy on charging for data sharing
  • develop costing and pricing models for data sharing, and
  • determine and publicise the types of data sharing services the entity will or will not charge for, as well as their schedule of fees.

Data custodians are also expected to have in place procedures for:

  • handling data sharing requests
  • determining how much a data user should be charged
  • approving a charge
  • handling complaints, including resolving conflicts
  • managing risks
  • reporting, including of revenue in the entity’s annual report
  • responding to data sharing processes that are incomplete (for example, the user decides to abandon the project, effectively withdrawing their request), and
  • engaging with data users, including consulting on changes to charges.

Approval arrangements

Appropriate arrangements for a data custodian to approve a charge must be in place before a custodian charges for a service. These arrangements must consider the custodian’s financial delegations and the authorisation of individuals to enter into data sharing agreements under the DATA Scheme (see section 137 of the Act).

Requests involving multiple entities

If there are multiple data users involved in a request, users should select a lead entity to be responsible for meeting charges imposed by the data custodian. The users must agree on how the fee should be divided and ensure this is captured in the data sharing agreement.

If there are multiple data custodians, the data custodians should:

  • ensure that no duplication of services occurs between custodians
  • clearly articulate to the user what services are being provided by which custodian, and the costs associated with each service
  • provide the data user(s) with the option to use an ADSP where multiple custodians would have to make significant changes to datasets to meet a single data sharing request, to reduce the costs involved for all participants.

Responding to incomplete processes

It is possible that a data sharing request does not run to completion, even after a data custodian has completed work to meet the request. For example, an accredited user withdraws their request after the data custodian has performed all or part of the services, or the data custodian determines the request cannot be completed part way through performing the services, or the data custodian fails to deliver.  The data sharing agreement should address these circumstances.

Handling complaints about fee arrangements

It is possible that a data custodian’s charging arrangements lead to complaints, and responding to such complaints will usually be the responsibility of the data custodian. If a data custodian will be undertaking significant and/or ongoing data services it is strongly recommended they develop and publish a policy on handling complaints.

Data custodians should ensure that an appropriate channel is in place to receive complaints and that policy and procedures are in place for how complaints are handled.

Note: An accredited entity may also complain to the National Data Commissioner about the conduct of a data custodian. ONDC will publish a separate guidance note on the National Data Commissioner’s approach to handling complaints.

Unpaid fees by data users

Where fees are liable to be paid by the data user but are not paid, those matters should be resolved by the data custodian directly liaising with the data user in the first instance. The data sharing agreement should contain provisions that will stipulate the consequences of non-payment of fees.

Where fees remain unpaid from one Commonwealth entity to another Commonwealth entity (as defined in the PGPA), the Commonwealth is not liable to pay a fee, instead the Finance Minister may give a direction to require the fee to be paid or to transfer money between accounts operated by the Commonwealth (section 141 of the Act).

Reporting of revenue

Data custodians must report on cost recovery, including in its annual financial statements, in accordance with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Policy (2023). The National Data Commissioner may request this information to assist in the preparation of their annual report.

Guidance note 2023:9

Last updated 22 August 2023