EU will force Chamber of Commerce to release more open data

The revision of the new European Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive, on re-use of public sector information, will force European member states to make more data from Company Registers available as open data and free of charge. On the 22nd of January Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda posted that an agreement was reached with the European Commission on publishing company information as open data. Tom Kunzler, interim-director of Open State Foundation: ‘We have been making an effort to open up the company register for some years. This European Directive will force the Dutch Chamber of Commerce to finally release more open data from the Company Register.’

The Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK) charges users for accessing data from the Company Register. The KvK makes about 50 million euros per year by selling these data. Countries like Belgium, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom have already made access to their Company Registers free. Research shows that the benefits for society of an open Company Register outweigh the Chamber of Commerce profits. An open Company Register is important for economy, trade, innovation and investment. It also helps preventing tax-evasion, fraud and terrorism.

European Directive on Re-Use

TheĀ PSI-Directive promotes re-use of public sector information. Since 2015 this directive has been implemented in the Netherlands in the Bill on the re-use of government information. The revision of the directive aims to remove barriers, mainly for small and medium enterprises, that result in public sector organizations charging more than the marginal costs for the re-use of their data.

Kunzler: ‘The revision of the PSI-Directive, on which an agreement has been reached, contains a list with High Value Datasets that every European member state should offer as freely available and re-usable open data. In this list companies and company ownership are also listed. After the implementation of the revised directive the Chamber of Commerce needs to release more of their Company Register data as open data. This is good news for everyone that uses information from the Company Register. We are curious as to how exactly the directive will be implemented in the Netherlands.’

Database rights not applicable on the Company Register

The Dutch state secretary Keijzer of Economic Affairs mentioned in a memo to the House of Representatives that she is awaiting the European developments regarding the change on the Law on the Company Register. The Ministry of Economic Affairs is trying to impose sui generis database rights on the Company Register. This would prevent the re-use of Company Register data. On the initiative of Open State Foundation a coalition of twenty European civil society organizations urged the European Parliament to prevent member states from imposing database rights on these registers.

Privacy of self-employed

The Dutch Chamber of Commerce won the Big Brother Award on the 22nd of January. This award is given to organizations that mishandle personal data and is awarded by the Dutch NGO Bits of Freedom. Upon making access to the Company Register free the Chamber of Commerce has to make sure that data cannot be traced back to persons. Self-employed people and freelancers can be left out of the open dataset. The Chamber of Commerce already promised steps to shield the phone numbers of self-employed people and to uncouple the VAT-number and personal identification number of the self-employed.

Read more on the website of the European Commission.