How to amend PAF® licensing? 2


One suggestion for what to do with the PAF License – thanks to for this pic of Crushed Cars

Royal Mail just launched a consultation on simplifying the PAF license, actually you can only view their proposals at the moment as the consultation portal isn’t yet open for comments but at least it gives you a head start to formulate your opinions.

It seems to me that Royal Mail are the most unreformed anti OpenData organisation within the public sector. Buoyed up by their inflated ideas of the value of the business in its forthcoming flotation (big windfall opportunity for senior management), the weak kneed support of BIS for privatising PAF and the reluctance of the Cabinet Office to beat them over the head with an OpenData stick, they are now consulting on how to simplify their licensing rather than just making this national data infrastructure freely available as the ODI and a host of other contributors to addressing discussions have demanded.

Even after the humiliating debacle of their abandoned PinPoint initiative (I wonder what that PinPointless idea cost them?) Royal Mail press on trying to retain their stranglehold on addresses, surely it is only a matter of time before the OpenData community combine with addressing managers in Local Government to bypass Royal Mail and create an Open Address File?

In their consultation document RM set out some principles that have guided their licensing and pricing

In preparing a simplified PAF® licensing framework and pricing model we have been guided by the following principles:
1. To continue to provide access to accurate, high quality PAF® data on reasonable terms
2. To ensure that licensing terms are shorter, simpler, and written in plain English
3. To recognise and understand our customers and be clear about how we intend to serve and support them
4. To continue to incentivise the wider take up and use of PAF® data
5. To continue to protect Royal Mail’s IP within PAF®
6. To ensure that current levels of income derived from PAF® licensing are maintained for Royal Mail
7. To ensure that any new licence does not breach competition law and meets the requirements laid down in the PSA 2011 and is aligned with Ofcom regulations
8. To seek swift deployment of a PAF® Public Sector Licence

The red (oh no!), amber (watch out!), green categorisation (about time too!) is mine not RM’s, no colour (OK).

There then follows pages and pages of different models which will sap your will to live let alone license PAF under these new models. In fairness if your current licensing is as complex and opaque as the current PAF licensing is then these new models may be simpler but they are still founded on the crazy presumption that a data set used to help delivery of our letters and parcels and partly built from data supplied for free by Local Government should then be considered Royal Mail’s IP and resold at a profit.

I wonder what portion of the total value of Royal Mail has been ascribed to retaining PAF in the forthcoming sell off? It appears that RM management have convinced BIS and the Treasury that it is a pretty colossal sum to get them to ignore ODI and the Cabinet Office. It would be interesting to see the calculations of how the ongoing charge to government for the Public Sector PAF license will compare with the notional added value from including PAF in the sell off. It just seems unbelievable to me that government will allow this crazy situation to continue.

What betting that if government goes ahead with the privatisation of PAF that the new owners will find ways to exploit loopholes in the regulations and increase prices and restrictions on usage within a couple of years? This will end in tears.

2 thoughts on “How to amend PAF® licensing?

  • Paul Malyon

    Hi Steve. Some interesting comments and I agree that the PAF license will only ever truly be fit for purpose if the file (or an alternative) is made part of the national information infrastructure as supported by Government.

    The business case and other documents written on behalf of the Open Data Community by the Open Data User Group are a good starting place for more figures on the total revenue of PAF. It is a minuscule percentage of the total Royal Mail turnover so any arguments made that it’s significant to the privatisation are probably inaccurate. What’s more likely is that Royal Mail (much like BT) want to remain as the ‘guardians’ of all the infrastructure necessary for a competitive market.

    What we’ve seen over the years with BT are many instances of their prices for access to the infrastructure being examined and adjusted by OFCOM. I’d at least hope that the same would happen to the Royal Mail in future. In this instance, a volume based license makes sense.

    However, that completely ignores your most important point. What would happen if the Local Authorities responsible for 90% of an address (i.e. everything other than the postcode) can find a way out of the contracts they have with Royal Mail or start to demand a share of the profits of this private enterprise? All options could be on the table and all carry an element of risk be it from competing datasets creating confusion or an out-of-control price rise.

    In short, while ODUG and others have made a strong case, the Royal Mail have friends in high places (higher it seems than the inventor of the web) and have got their way, for now. ODUG continue to work with all parties to push for an Open alternative and I personally hope that something emerges soon.

  • Steve

    Why don’t we look to community to make our own postcode equivalent? PAF was originally designed to help posties know their route. What if we got local gov to just work on their own code, use a central mgmt such as geoplace to store data but as made at local gov it is made open.

    We used nlpg governance for quality control and standards and just start adding the code to council tax bills. What company wouldn’t want to use such a data that’s free gives accurate location and is kept up to date at local level?

    If posties privatised why not look for an alternative. The postcode is used for Sat navs and research, let’s make something else, the postcode didn’t exist 100yrs ago, why should it certain to exist in another 100?

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