Addressing Monopoly 7

Last week the long awaited announcements on a National Addressing Gazetteer called GeoPlace arrived from Ordnance Survey, the Local Government Group (I thought it was Association), National Land and Property Gazetteer, Department for Communities and Local Government, Intelligent Addressing and Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in alphabet soup language that’s a NAG (yes really NAG) called GP from OS, LGG, NLPG, DCLG, IA & DEFRA! Note the absence of Royal Mail from the announcements

We have been waiting a long time to see a resolution of the Address Wars between OS, NLPG/IA and RM (Royal Mail) and rumours had been all over the place as to what the outcome would be.

Thanks to unloveablesteve

It seems almost unarguable that there should be a single definitive address gazetteer for use in the public and private sectors and much of the debate in the Free Our Data campaign has been about the chaotic internal market within the public sector for address data with OS, LG and RM all claiming intellectual property in an address. In the FAQ issued with the various press releases reference is made to the CLG consultation:

The Ordnance Survey consultation run by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in December 2009 highlighted the recommendations of the Power of Information Taskforce and the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee to create a freely-available single definitive address and postcode database for the UK (my italics). It sought views on the proposal for a single national address register and 43% of respondents provided comments, the large majority supporting the proposal.
The creation of GeoPlace, in response to this strong market demand, will:

  1. replace the need for two public bodies to produce two similar products, leading to direct public cost savings arising from the de-duplication of work;
  2. create a product that meets the needs of Government – central and local;
  3. lead to the more efficient transfer of address data within Government. This will, in turn, lead to improved decision-making and delivery of public services;
  4. and provide the private sector with a single source of national spatial address information.

As Bob Barr suggests in his letter to the Shareholder Executive GeoPlace will not create the freely available address database that the CLG consultation envisaged (at least not for the private and third sectors or for developers using government open data) and the silence of RM suggests that their exploitation of the PAF may continue.

It is puzzling that Local Government and OS still want to create a commercial market for private sector usage of address data, it just doesn’t chime with the principals and aspirations of all that has been achieved with open data in the last year. It is also surprising that this government is willing to create another state monopoly. That said, there must be costs of maintaining the NAG and government probably needs to defray them somehow. Bob Barr has long advocated a small charge for every change to the address database, perhaps that is an alternative to charging business and the third sector for address data.

A while back an “enterprise license” for AddressPoint was close to £100k, I am not sure what  price levels are being proposed for the NAG. It will be interesting to see what OFT says about this newly formed monopoly. What controls, if any, will be imposed on pricing?

When we play Monopoly at home there are often some interesting tactical alliances amongst the family, usually someone ends up complaining that it isn’t fair. I wonder whether this will be an addressing version of our family Monopoly games?

7 thoughts on “Addressing Monopoly

    • steven

      Thanks for that Thierry

      How immensely depressing that the whole addressing saga will run on with Royal Mail still able to exploit their stranglehold.

      I love these Q&A’s they are shameless!

      Will it include Royal Mail’s PAF database?

      Data from Royal Mail’s PAF database is a vital component of the national address gazetteer database.

      Will customers have to pay Royal Mail royalties separately (for example, as currently for the Pan Government Agreement (PGA) or Mapping Services Agreement (MSA)?

      Options are being explored for the payment of Royal Mail royalties by the public sector. For commercial customers, Royal Mail royalties will continue to apply as they do today.

      And worst of all …

      Following the release of OS OpenData™, will products from the national address gazetteer database become OS OpenData products?

      There are currently no plans to make the products created from the national address gazetteer database available for free.

      You may be able to hear screeching tearing sounds as clumps of my scarce hair are removed 🙁

  • Thierry_G

    Does anyone know whether the AL2 equivalent produced by GeoPlace will indeed be RM-free? Upon hearing the news I had automatically assumed that RM IPR would contaminate the new gazetteer, but maybe not?

    Either way, I don’t really mind a state monopoly for addressing data, as the state is the only player capable of creating a truly authoritative dataset. I don’t mind paying for it either as long as the price reasonably reflects the cost of production divided by all users and uses. That could include giving it away for free (at the point of use) to the public & to the public sector, or part-funding it via registration charges as Bob Barr suggests.

    As a business I just want to be able to use addressing data in any way I like, without ludicrous re-use or derived data restrictions. A small charge for its use could be accommodated by any value-added product as it would benefit both resellers and users.

  • steven


    When I was more actively involved in discussions about address datasets the impression that I got was that RM were a big part of the problem but OS have always been reluctant to point the finger so who knows?

    Looking back on previous posts I reckon we need to turn the spotlight up on RM

    And most recently a plea to St Vincent

  • James C

    Actually the following RRPs for interrnal enterprise wide use apply:
    AL2: £189,370
    AL: £130,600
    AP: £132,500
    There are other ways of licensing the data of course, which the channel can oblige you with.
    My belief has always been that the complexities and costs of these licences stem in the main from RM, not OS. And as you point out RM (and ONS to be fair) are not acronyms associated with what we have heard so far.
    If an RM-free NAG can be produced and maintained then one assumes RM/PAF would be in competition and OFT’s role would be to ensure that this was the case. As NAG infrastructure seems set to be that of IA then you would think that NAG licensing would make short work of RM!

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