FEBIS thanks the Commission for having been included in the Online Focus Group on company and company ownership information organised by Deloitte in the preparatory study , for which we have already provided contributions and took part in all focus groups and workshops. We would like to take the opportunity to stress again crucial aspects that need to be highlighted with regards to the Impact Assessment on the Implementing Act on a list of High-Value Datasets regarding company and company ownership information to ensure that business transparency remains high in the Internal market and that the Open Data and PSI directive delivers actual improvement in ensuring greater business transparency in the EU.
- General Comments on the scope of the HVD on company and company ownership
- a) The view of participating PSI reusers of companies & companies ownership information is that the scope of this category of HVDS should be broad and should include all information that is made available through any type of business register, including enterprises, craftsmen, sole traders, no matter the legal form of the business. Data should encompass as PSI all attributes that are collected and made publicly available to ensure effective business identification and adequate transparency. This would include inter alia all information on sole traders but also on legal representatives, beneficial owners, filing and any other items that are available in the different national business registers which should be made available as high-value datasets. It is therefore crucial to consider all “businesses” and not only “companies” in the scope of the HDVs.
- b) The scope of the “business information” HVD should be considering all the items that are currently available (free of charge or for a fee) in national registers and other kind of enterprises’ registers existing in a MS, and not the lowest common denominator of common datasets. The aim of the PSI & Open Data Directive is to enlarge the scope of possible items to be re-used, not to restrict it, especially for data which are – by nature – very used for cross-border commercial relationships.
- c) HVDS should serve as a basis for common data layer facilitating the roll out of sectoral data spaces (cf strategy for data, so it should be set on maximum data availability and not minimum. The HVDs should not be restricting what is currently available at national level but on the contrary expand it.
- d) In our opinion “Company” has to be seen as an umbrella term for every kind of organization / economic actor that does business, which means every entity in the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 54 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. (“‘Companies or firms’ means companies or firms constituted under civil or commercial law, including cooperative societies, and other legal persons governed by public or private law, save for those which are non-profit-making.”). We would recommend to consider the “capacity” argument which already prevails in a number of EU laws (including EU consumer law and e-privacy) and to consider that companies and company information refers to all businesses, including natural persons that act in a professional and business capacity.
2. Comments on the importance of business information for the global economy
- a) Business information is used on a daily basis by a large number of enterprises and actors in Europe and globally, first and foremost to help manage trade credit by getting updated information on trade counterparts. As outlined in the attached paper done by Febis on trade credit, getting updated and accurate information on business counterparts helps avoiding cascade liquidations which is all the more crucial in current economic turmoil.
- b) Increased transparency and anti-money laundering legislations have recognized the importance of getting relevant and accurate information on businesses, business structure and key financials to help fighting fraud and also enable third parties legitimate right to information, as also outlined by the Manni case.
- c) As outlined also by the free flow of data regulation, data that constitute business data can have mixed datasets and there is also a grey zone on the impact of GDPR on business data for sole entrepreneurs or shareholders data. As outlined in court cases such as the Manni Case or the recent French Court de Cassation case (n° 285 of 24 June 2020), ensuring the legitimate right to information in business context prevails and therefore unjustified data protection restrictions should not be claimed to prevent access to business information from public registers.
3. Comments on the proposed level of intervention outlined by the Impact Assessment
- a) Option 3 – high intervention- is the option that should be chosen for business and business ownership categories. If any other Option than Option 3 -is chosen, it means a great setback for „usual “PSI and company data. That could endanger every national PSI solution where more than the minimum sets are provided, as in that case the Commission acknowledges that the „usual PSI provisions” are not applicable to company data.
- b) When it comes to real-time delivery Option 1 and 2 send out the signal to all Member States that release in a timely manner is not necessary according to the „usual PSI rules“ which contradicts the spirit of the Open Data Directive and harms the trust in PSI principles.
- c) Should Option 1 or 2 be chosen, charging aspects have to be considered: That means the EC agrees that Member States charge a lot more by selling printouts than the PSI principles allow.
FEBIS members thank you for your time and involvement and they all remain available for any additional feedback you may need in achieving the common EU goal of increasing business transparency and data availability through Open Data principles and High Value Datasets.