In 2006, the Office of Fair Trading (now known as the Competition and Markets Authority or “CMA”) published a market study on the commercial use of public sector information. The study concluded that there were problems with both the ability to access some types of information held by public sector bodies, and the prices charged for such access. In particular, pricing was not always cost reflective, and there were concerns that preferential terms were offered to the public bodies’ commercial arms comparative to independent competitors. The study covered a broad variety of data types, including both processed and raw data. It also looked at public sector information falling within many different categories, including economic, business, legal, social, geographical, meteorological, scientific, transport, environmental, cultural and political data. The study made a number of recommendations intended to allow timely access on equivalent terms, particularly in circumstances where the public sector body is the only supplier of the information in question.
Eight years on, the CMA wants to find out how well these recommendations have been implemented, and whether they are working in practice to bring about the intended benefits. As part of this review, the CMA is inviting evidence on whether problematic behaviours have changed, or if users of public sector information are still encountering problems with access, pricing, or other aspects of the service. To facilitate this, open workshops will be held in November as a forum to discuss these issues in more detail.
If you are a regular user of public sector information, and particularly if your business model is reliant on access to such data, this is an important opportunity to engage in a constructive discussion. If it is of interest, please contact us and we can outline the options available to you – from participation in public meetings to making individual submissions on the issues facing your business.