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Dutch government hampers re-use of Chamber of Commerce data

Author: Adrian Offerman

The Dutch government has prepared a new Trade Register Law that will effectively forbid free re-use of the register data of its Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel, KvK). In response to an internet consultation, Stefan de Konink, open data proponent and founder of the OpenGeo Foundation, wrote an open letter to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Security and Justice, asking the Dutch government to reconsider its new policy.

De Konink is the initiator of the openkvk portal, which provides an open alternative to the official KvK site. The portal originated from a programming competition organised by Hack de Overheid (Hack the Government), now part of the Open State Foundation. Its launch, six years ago, resulted in legal action by the Chamber, who saw it as a threat. Back then, the KvK site closed down every night. In addition to its 24/7 availability, openkvk provides an Application Programming Interface (API) and extra functionality.

Criticism

The Dutch Chamber of Commerce has been the subject of criticism for a long time now. Until 2013, companies had to pay an annual fee — now they pay for their initial registry — only to see their contact data sold to marketing companies. Both companies and third parties have to pay for each and every excerpt they need — registrees are charged in full even for their own excerpts. Despite this, the Chamber has never managed to provide a decent online service. Just this week, the agency reported a loss of 63 million euro.

According to De Konink, officially resorting the KvK register data under the Database Law allows the Chamber to prevent others from re-using the data that registrees are obliged to provide. It hinders innovation in the private sector and goes against Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information, also known as the PSI Directive. Furthermore, the Chamber is involved in commercial activities, although it is not supposed to be. In his open letter, De Konink calls the new law a step backwards. The Dutch government is holding on to an outdated business model to maintain the current funding of the Chamber.

[We have contacted the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs for comments. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.]