Companies not ready for public information law change

An article by Bob Sherwood on the front page of today’s Financial Times says:

Thousands of companies that deal with the public sector are ill prepared for new freedom of information rules that could force them to disclose commercially sensitive information.

Seven weeks before the Freedom of Information Act takes full effect – and despite having four years’ notice of the legislation – lawyers say too few companies that deal with the public sector, including private finance initiative contractors, have woken up to the potential pitfalls.

See full text here

The article also quotes assistant information commissioner Phil Boyd who predicts that disputes for information about private companies will make up a large part of his caseload next year. He said: “It is likely we will see greater transparency of contracts between private companies and the public sector. Information regarding the value obtained for public money and the performance of contractors could both be made public under FoI.”

In the United States, businesses are the major user of the FOI Act, far surpassing even the media. UK businesses have yet to realise or capitalise on this potential.

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