Stop charging for Open Data

Stop charging for Open Data


BY  Eva van Steenbergen and Wendy Carrara on behalf of the European Data Portal

Making public data available free of charge is still high on the agenda of governments across Europe. The European PSI Directive (2013/37/EU) established framework rules regarding availability, accessibility and transparency of Open Data in Europe. Those rules do not prevent differentiated charging policies. Recital 15 of the European PSI Directive indicates that “…the Member States should encourage public sector bodies to make documents available at charges that do not exceed the marginal costs for repro­ducing and disseminating the documents”. This leaves room for Member States to apply their own interpretation of marginal costs. Nevertheless, in the European Directive itself, Member States are allowed to apply charging mechanisms which should not exceed the production and distribution plus a reasonable return on investments. As a result, different regimes have been established ranging from full cost recovery to a zero cost model.

Situation in Member States

Some EU Member States are still sceptical about providing data at marginal or no costs. There are specific agencies, including for instance the meteorological agencies, cadastre and business registers, refusing to stop charging for their data. They argue that the government should compensate for their loss of income. However, public sector bodies in various countries have witnessed a strong growth in demand for information they provide after switching from cost-based pricing of data to free or maximum marginal cost priced information. Several studies and case examples have shown that cost-based pricing models do not bring additional revenue to public authorities in the long run while free or marginal cost models are more beneficial from a value creation perspective

Relevant examples:

PSI in European Meteorology – an Unfulfilled Potential,

Does Marginal Cost Pricing of Public Sector Information Spur Firm Growth?

Benefits of charging at marginal or zero cost

In most cases the cost-recovery model creates barriers to the access and the re-use of Open Data. Especially people with limited budget like citizens, students, researchers, start-ups etc will not make use of Open Government Data if a fee is requested to obtain the data. More downloads are generated which leads to an increase in the number of innovations led by start-ups making use of the data made available. In turn, economic growth leads to a higher return on investment for the public sector when data is available free of charge. Governments witness indirect benefits out of downloads, such as an increase in tax revenues on sold products and services. This results in a tendency towards the marginal cost model in more countries. Nevertheless, certain Member States are still reluctant and request to have evidence of the real impact of such change of approach. This may seem like a chicken and egg debate.

The ‘Survey on the benefits of re-using Open Data’ aims at providing insight into the economic benefits of Open Data at company level. If governments need more data before releasing more public data, let’s help them out. The survey is open from 18 February 2016 until 29 April 2016 for everyone using Open Data and will gather hundreds of use cases.

Do you want to read more about Open Data in Europe and learn about the economic benefits?

Read the full report ‘Creating Value through Open Data’.


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