Employee Background Checks:
What Are All Those Fees About?

Andrew Scott, Vice President
Scott-Roberts & Associates, LLC


Sometimes your background screening company may charge you something referred to as “access fees.” These fees are nothing more than a tax levied by a particular county or state to access either criminal records or Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records. These fees are passed along to the client in addition to the fee charged by the background screening provider for the searches completed.

Most counties in the United States do not charge access fees, but some do. The fees vary in cost, some as low as $1 and others as high as $50 per county, per applicant. Statewide criminal record searches usually have an access fee charge as well. For example, New York’s Office of Court Administration now charges a whopping $98 access fee per applicant. Similarly, procuring most state DMV records also encumbers access fees and these fees will vary from state to state.

The vexing aspect of access fees is not only the cost of the fees, but the surprise you may have had upon reviewing your first invoice from your background screening provider and not realizing how expensive access fees can be. Your background screening provider should have informed you about these fees and should have provided you a list of all fees associated with criminal background checks beyond the fees they charge. If you are not aware of what fees each state or county charges, be sure to ask your vendor to provide the list of fees.

Overall, pricing in the background screening business has, to some degree, been commoditized. Some background screening companies are pricing themselves to a point that they will try and beat the competition at all costs, including diminishing accuracy and customer service. Background checks within the composite of hiring and selection is a vital component to hiring the right person for the dealership. Although the cost of background screening may seem to be an unnecessary expense, it should actually be perceived as a prudent course of conduct to help mitigate the cost of possible litigation by not hiring the wrong person for your dealership.

The cost of conducting background checks can also be impacted by having additional searches conducted based off of a national criminal history database search. If a record is found from a national or state database repository search before the vendor can report the record to you, it must be verified within the county the record originated from, thus incurring an additional search fee. A reputable background screening vendor should inform you of all costs associated with conducting background checks.

The author of this article is not an attorney and offers no legal advice. The contents of this article should be reviewed by your corporate attorney before taking any action based on its content.