The contract for the Government Gateway Service was awarded to Atos in 2006. Subsequently, a request for information was made under FOIA 2000 in relation to that award, including a request for copies of agreements between the Cabinet Office and Atos, copies of risk assessments and information about costs.
The Cabinet Office declined to disclose most information, relying on the commercial interests exemption in section 43 of FOIA. The Commissioner concluded that the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP), who had taken over responsibility for the Gateway Service, had failed to show that an exemption was engaged.
Upon appeal by the DWP, the tribunal held that s43 was engaged regarding all the disputed information as it would be 'likely to prejudice' the commercial interests of the DWP under s43 (2) and posed a real risk to the competitive environment.
However, it decided that the public interest in disclosure outweighed the public interest in maintaining the exemption. The public interest in knowing that there were adequate service levels were strong and the public had an interest in the increased costs of the Atos contract.
This did not apply in respect of information about Atos's financial model to which the s43 exemption applied. The tribunal held that this was equivalent to a trade secret under s 41(3) of FOIA and contained confidential information. There was a strong public interest in such financial models being protected throughout the life of a contract.