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Freedom Of Information Changes ‘Could Impact On Businesses’

Clegg Expected To Announce Changes


Businesses could face adverse effects if new proposals to bring more organisations into the Freedom Of Information Act get the green light, an expert at Irwin Mitchell has suggested.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to announce some reforms which will see bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service and charities potentially subject to the laws.

It is also expected that proposals may see the length of time that government information can remain secret reduced from 30 to 20 years.

Discussing the potential changes, Joanne Bone, a Partner who specialises in data protection issues for Irwin Mitchell, said: “Whilst at first glance it seems entirely sensible to make organisations which get public money more open to public scrutiny, there is a downside to businesses which trade with them.

“If you provide goods or services to a business which is subject to Freedom of Information Act then confidential details relating to the products, any tender, pricing or other contractual terms relating to them potentially become discloseable under the Act.

“This means that competitors can use the Act to get hold of confidential information.  The expansion of the number of organisations brought within the Act will mean that many more businesses will be affected by this downside.”