Public data: Ministers in favour of more flexible tariffs
By Manon Malhère | Friday 08 June 2012
The rules of tariff-setting for the reuse of public sector information based on marginal costs, as proposed by the European Commission, should be more flexible, the majority of the member states’ ministers agreed as they met for the Telecoms Council, on 8 June, to exchange views on the Commission’s draft directive modifying Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information.
The commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, is convinced that if prices are lowered, public sector information will be used more extensively. She added that a minimal tariff would boost the reuse of these data, which would in turn increase public revenue. “We need to face facts and show courage,” Kroes said, stressing that this proposal will contribute to reinforce the digital internal market. The legislative proposal was presented in December 2011, and aims to promote a real opening (making data accessible and reusable) of information collected by public bodies: public data should automatically become reusable. The Commission is namely proposing to limit the charges set for their reuse to marginal costs of reproduction and diffusion, except in exceptional cases justified by objective, transparent and verifiable criteria.
Overall, the ministers welcome this proposal, but want to arrive at a balance allowing low tariffs to be applied for the reuse of data without affecting public spending, especially in these times of budget austerity.
The majority of ministers wishes to relax the Commission’s proposal in order to be able to apply tariffs that are higher than marginal costs. Belgium has pointed out that this balance will be difficult to strike and believes that exceptions must be laid down. Accordingly, Brussels is proposing various criteria, such as the nature of the public institution or the concrete realities that enterprises are facing.
Hungary has defended the situation of small member states for which the cost of providing reuse is particularly high given that the market of public sector information is smaller there.
Moreover, some member states, such as Bulgaria and Italy, stressed that tariffs should also be high for some public bodies that will not be able to provide the information because of the cost incurred by the provision of data.
“We need to face facts and show courage,” Kroes said, stressing that this proposal will contribute to reinforce the digital internal market