Digital data on companies is to be available free of charge next year according to a government decision to eschew nearly £9m a year in fees.
The commitment appears in a statement by the Public Data Group, which oversees four information trading funds, Companies House, Land Registry, the Meteorological Office and Ordnance Survey. The aim is to improve transparency and encourage innovative uses of data by third parties. Searches of Companies House data currently cost up to £1 a time. Last year Companies House received £8.7m in fees for searches of the company register.
The department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said the move, from April next year, will make the UK "the first country to establish a truly open register of business information".
Vince Cable, the business secretary, said: "The government firmly believes that the best way to maximise the value to the UK economy of the information which Companies House holds, is for it to be available as open data. By making its data freely available and free of charge, Companies House is making the UK a more transparent, efficient and effective place to do business."
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the announcement cements the UK's position as a leader in the open data agenda. "The UK is an international leader in open data because it sharpens accountability, exposes waste and informs choice over public services. It is also the raw material of our age, providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to create new data-led businesses and fuel growth as part of this government's long-term economic plan."
The commitment appears in a Public Data Group (PDG) summer statement that sets out a range of activities and planned data releases by Companies House, Land Registry, Met Office and Ordnance Survey. These include Land Registry expanding its monthly property price data to include commercial properties and Ordnance Survey supporting innovation around flood related issues through the release of river network information.
The most recent estimate placed the value of the PDG's Open Data to the UK economy at over £900 million a year. The statement also commits PDG members to a review of how their developer licences can be more easily used, to report in December.