Study into business access to public information launched in UK

Out-Law News | 23 Sep 2014 | 4:28 pm | 1 min. read

The UK's primary regulator of competition has commissioned a study into whether the market for commercial use of public information (CUPI) has improved since a damning report of practices by some public sector bodies was issued by the now-defunct Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in 2006.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it wants to understand whether businesses have better access to public sector information than was previously identified by the OFT as being the case.

Consultancy DotEcon is undertaking the study on behalf of the CMA.

"As part of our work, we would like to gather evidence from the industry to understand the current state of commercial use of PSI (public sector information), and in particular: whether PSI holders have significantly altered their behaviour in providing PSI (e.g. in terms of amount of data supplied, quality, pricing and licence terms); and whether users still find problems in the market, especially where related to the competition concerns identified in the [OFT's 2006] CUPI study," DotEcon said.

In its report, the OFT said that some government bodies were charging businesses too much to use public data and said the bodies were dealing on unfair terms. It said those practices were costing the UK economy half a billion pounds a year.

The report found that raw information was not as easily available as it should have been, licensing arrangements were restrictive, prices not always linked to costs and that public sector information holders may have been charging higher prices to competing businesses and giving them less attractive terms than their own value-added operations.

The CMA said it would hold "open workshops" with stakeholders in November to give businesses a chance to express their views on how the market has evolved since the OFT's 2006 study: "This will be an excellent opportunity to influence the CMA’s view of the market for the commercial use of PSI and how the CMA should use its powers to influence the development of public service markets," it said.

Earlier this year, the European Commission issued new guidelines on recommended standard licences, datasets and charging for the re-use of documents held by public sector organisations. In the guide it recommended that public bodies curtail licensing restrictions on the re-use of that information.

The guidance particularly encouraged EU countries to make geospatial data, information on earth observation and the environment, transport data, national, regional and local statistical data and information from company registers available for re-use. It said these types of data are "in highest demand" among re-users of data within the EU.

The guidelines do not relate to documents held by public sector bodies in which third party copyright or database rights are contained.