info2000 logo GREEN PAPER ON PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION
IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

back to i*m europe

back to info2000

navigation graphic

The World Association of Research Professionals - ESOMAR / EFAMRO RESPONSE


Amsterdam, 31 May 1999

ESOMAR, EFAMRO and the social and market research sector

The following paper is drafted on behalf of ESOMAR and EFAMRO which together represent 95% of the market research profession in Europe.

ESOMAR

ESOMAR (www.esomar.nl) is the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research. Its mission is to promote the highest standards in marketing research for improving decision making in the public and private sectors, through its events, publications and codes of practice.

ESOMAR gathers together nearly 4000 individual members in 100 countries worldwide (around 75% of members are from within the European Union). Membership includes senior research suppliers and corporate clients in all industries and service sectors as well as in public authorities and institutions.

Representation

ESOMAR has a mandate to represent 30 national marketing and marketing research societies in 17 countries including all member states of the EU.

EFAMRO

EFAMRO (www.efamro.org) is the European Federation of Associations of Market Research Organisations. It aims to promote and defend market research and to encourage the maintenance of the highest possible standards in survey research. EFAMRO is developing quality standards and an accreditation system for implementation on a European-wide scale.

The Federation has member associations in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Each national association includes up to forty leading market research suppliers which between them account for approximately 70% of total research expenditure in their country.

The social and market research sector in the EU

The size of the market for social and market research in the EU was estimated to be 4314 million Euro in 1997, with an impact on business decisions worth an estimated 36 billion Euro. The social and market research sector in the EU has shown sustained growth during recent years and now accounts for 41% of the world-wide market compared to the USA which has 37% of the world-wide total.

Within Europe, the single largest share of research turnover is accounted for by fast-moving consumer goods (27%) followed by ‘public sector’ (14%) which includes central and local government (excluding utilities and social research). It is estimated that in the EU there are more than 48,000 full-time employees in the sector with a further 190,000 working as interviewers and supervisors.

Together with the International Chamber of Commerce, ESOMAR has developed the ICC/ESOMAR International Code of Social and Marketing Research Practice. This has been adopted by all ESOMAR members and their companies, by members of the ICC and by 54 marketing research associations including EFAMRO and all other associations in the Member States of the European Union.

This document contains our answers to the ten questions posed in Chapter 3 of the Green Paper. By way of preamble we wish to state that we very much welcome this initiative to bring a consistent and coherent policy to such an important area. Within the Public Sector there is a substantial amount of information which if properly and speedily made available to business will be an important contributor in promoting growth and employment in our increasingly knowledge driven economic base.

Question 1: Which definition of public sector is the most appropriate?

Our view is that the most manageable and the most relevant is the ‘financial approach’ for both administrative and non-administrative data. Our reasoning is that by using this wider definition it should be possible to make available all the data from within a specific member state that is of some commercial benefit and in this fashion we will be able to remove inequalities in the comparable availability of data across member states. This is of particular importance when providing EU wide information for planning and development.

Because of differing levels of privatisation in member states (eg railways, transportation and parts of the healthcare industry) there should be a functional element in the definition, in order to ensure that data is made available from all member states.

What categories of public service information should be used in the debate?

As a matter of principle there should be no access to personal data. Data made available must be treated as though it was being collected by the end user directly from the citizen within the terms of current EU Data Protection Legislation. We would argue, however that an exception be made for the continued access to lists such as Electoral Registers which are used by statisticians in both Government and Commerce when carrying out statistical sample survey enquiries of the sort wherein the data that is collected is subsequently only used for aggregated statistical and anonymised analysis.

Question 2: Do different conditions for access to public sector information in the Member States create barriers at European level?

For efficient operation Knowledge driven businesses and industries need as far as is possible equally timely and comprehensive information for maximum achievement. It follows therefore that different conditions on either of these two key components will act as a barrier. This can penalise EU businesses in both developing products and the efficient estimation of demand.

In particular there should be common policy on exemptions and a commitment to maximum elapse time in provision.

The way forward would be for Member Sates to jointly commit to a set of common principles covering this and these should be drawn up after consultation with representative European Industry bodies.

Question 3: Could the establishment of European meta-data help?

To enable both awareness of what is available, how it could be accessed, from whom and at what cost would clearly be best met by some form of pan-European database. Of course common and consistent formats for holding and presenting statistical information will be essential. There will also need to be provision for holding abstracts and/or key words in the principal EU languages, so that multi-country searches can be executed efficiently without having to type in the search string in 13 different languages.

How could this be realised?

For business electronic access using the Internet with key word search, data examples, access conditions, cost etc. would be the best and most cost effective.

Question 4: What bearing do pricing policies have on access to and exploitation of public information?

We would argue that the most straightforward approach to this difficult question is that the information should be made available at the cost of analysis and provision. Such a cost may not be always easy to calculate or in some circumstances there may be substantial initial set-up costs and low running costs. However there is not going to be any charging algorithm that should fit all circumstances. As far as business users are concerned there should be no element of subsidy.

We do not believe that there should be an approach which tries to set an economic value on the data by Central Institutions. Experience of attempts to do this has shown that Institutional estimates of the value of Information and market place valuations are often a long way apart. If there is any desire to maximise revenue from Information provision then the best approach would be by competitive tendering with the winner having the on-sale rights for a defined time period.

Question 5: To what extent and under what conditions could activities of public sector bodies on the information market create unfair competition at the European level?

This should be avoided if there are transparent regulations regarding Access and Pricing.

Pricing policies should be consistent across member states (to avoid limiting the development of the internal market) and should be kept as low as possible. All data should not necessarily be priced at what a private organisation would need to charge to get a fair return. Otherwise, the amount and quality of data which will be available would be severely limited, without ensuring that private sector information providers do any better as a result.

Question 6: Do different copyright regimes within Europe represent barriers for exploitation of public sector information?

We have little knowledge of this area. We believe that they could cause distortion and that in the longer term a move to a single harmonised European copyright regime is desirable.

Question 7: Do privacy considerations deserve specific attention in relation to the exploitation of public sector information?

We believe that it is of paramount importance that Public trust is not eroded by the abuse of any personal data. We would refer to our earlier response to Question 1. In general we are opposed to any provision of personal data that is not used for statistical or other research purposes with the exception of items such as Electoral Registers which are intermediate components in such research.

Question 8: To what extent may the different Member States’ liability regimes represent an obstacle to access or exploitation of public sector information?

Excluding the provision of personal data should ensure that this is not an issue regarding data relating to natural persons. So far as data is made available relating to legal persons the majority of the interest that market researchers commercially have would be satisfied either by aggregated data or by anonymous or unidentifiable data. Making universal availability on this basis which again would remove the liability issue would be a major achievement of economic value in its own right.

Question 9: To what extent are the policies pursued by the EU institutions in the field of access and dissemination of information adequate?

It is difficult to gain a comprehensive understanding of what the current policies are. For instance, relating to the Europa site, there needs to be a much better classification system

and site map. Furthermore, better links to other sites are needed.

Question 10: Which actions should be given priority attention at European level?

The first step might be the drafting of common guidelines and an outline timetable for implementation.

The scale of the task will vary from one information area to another. One way in which the task could be assessed would be to take two or three examples of information from different areas, e.g. business statistics, health statistics and wealth distribution and assess what would be required to meet the provision requirement - cost, resource, time and so forth.

Each area could have a working party involving stakeholders from different interest groups.

[BACK TO LIST OF COMMENTS ]


Home - Gate - Back - Top - Warp - Relevant