Brexit, open data and dangerous products

24 October 2016

There is going to be so much detail in the Great Repeal Bill - so many tiny decisions with potentially big impact - that it’s going to be hard to know what we are losing and what we are gaining. One thing we could lose is open data about dangerous products.

For reasons I’ve never fully understood, the body seemingly responsible for publishing recalls of dangerous products in the UK is a private organisation: The Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

They publish UK product recalls on their website, the terms and conditions of which forbid the reuse of the data online:

“You are welcome to print off pages from this website, link to them, or reproduce them, other than on another website, as long as you do not do so for financial gain or distort the information they contain.”

When I worked for Consumer Focus, we wanted to build a simple tool that sent email alerts about dangerous products. The long-term vision was to build a service that automatically issued recalls based on your purchase history (something I still hope a retailer like Amazon or John Lewis manages to get around to one day).

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute actively protect their copyright on the data (the Terms and Conditions forbid reuse of the data online), so we could not use that.

Luckily, EU law requires that national product recall lists are also published on the EU’s website under the Rapid Alert System (RAPEX), and RAPEX has a much more permissive approach to reuse:

“may be reused for commercial and non-commercial purposes, free of charge and on a non-exclusive basis, in paper form or in any electronic format, throughout the world”

The UK will presumably no longer be covered by the RAPEX system if we leave the single market.

We could loose access to open data about dangerous products, unless parliament includes in the Great Repeal Bill a requirement to publish product recall notices on GOV.UK under the Open Government Licence.