Request for information - Ref No: FOI231158
Thank you for your email of 18 July 2023, requesting information from Ordnance Survey (OS) in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, as set out in the extract below:
“Please provide a breakdown, for the previous three financial years, of the total income generated for the OS by purchases made by members of the public for hard-copy maps or subscriptions to your web and app services. For each financial year, please indicate the proportion this income constituted out of total income”
It is our understanding from your request that you are asking for information relating to revenue received by OS for 1) sales of hard copy paper maps and 2) OS Maps subscriptions. Where you have referred to ‘subscriptions to your web and app services’ we have taken this to mean OS Map subscriptions.
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does hold the information you have requested; where the information is exempt from disclosure this is stated. Taking each question in turn:-
1. Revenue received by OS for sales of hard copy paper maps.
- 2020/2021: Information available in our Annual Report, page 97, in the ‘Revenue and Segmental Reporting’ table under Trading revenue.
- 2021/2022: Information available in our Annual Report, page 112, in the ‘Revenue and Segmental Reporting’ table under Trading revenue.
Please note the figure includes sales direct from OS and from retailers.
The Annual Reports linked above detail the total revenue, which you can use to obtain the proportion of the revenue of sales of hard copy paper maps out of the total revenue.
We therefore consider the above information to be exempt from disclosure under section 21 of the FOIA, as it is reasonably accessible to you by other means, as the Annual Reports are published on our website and therefore already in the public domain.
Section 21 is an absolute exemption therefore no public interest test is applicable.
- 2022/2023: The requested information is held by OS and is due to be published in our Annual Report in the Autumn.
We therefore consider the exemption at section 22 (information intended for future publication) of the FOIA, applies. The information is held with a settled intention to publish this information before your request was made.
Section 22 is a qualified exemption, and we are required to consider the public interest.
Ordnance Survey recognises there is a public interest in providing the information that falls within the scope of this request ahead of the planned publication date for Annual Report as this aid’s transparency. However, OS are still in the process of validating the information in the Annual Report and receiving sign off from the Auditors that the information can be published. As OS had the intention of publishing this information, as part of our reporting process, and this information is due to be published shortly, we believe it is reasonable to withhold this information until the time it has been verified by the Auditors and is published on our website.
In this case, we are satisfied that there is greater public interest in withholding this information under this exemption.
2. Revenue received by OS for sales of OS Maps subscriptions.
I confirm we hold revenue information in relation to the sales of OS Maps subscriptions for the previous three financial years; however, we consider the information requested for OS Maps subscriptions to be exempt from disclosure under section 43(2) (commercial interests) of the FOIA.
Under section 43(2) of the FOIA, information is exempt if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person. In this case, providing this information would be likely to undermine our ability to participate competitively in the commercial marketplace in which we operate.
This is because competitors can use openly available analytics and tools to access download data, and this combined with the revenue figures you have requested would provide our competitors with a valuable insight into our revenue streams. Ordnance Survey operates in a commercial environment and providing the information you have requested would be likely to provide those competing in the same market with a commercial advantage.
This is a qualified exemption, and we are required to consider the public interest.
Ordnance Survey recognises the need for transparency. However, this must be balanced against the public interest in allowing the organisation to protect its commercial information and not place itself at a disadvantage in the competitive market in which it operates.
Disclosure of the information you have requested would provide our competitors with financial information which is commercially sensitive and not already in the public domain and would prejudice our revenue-generating activities, placing Ordnance Survey at a commercial disadvantage.
Section 43(2) is a prejudice-based exemption, and there is a public interest inherent in avoiding the harm specified. Ordnance Survey considers that the prejudice would be likely to occur and would involve a material adverse effect on Ordnance Survey’s revenues.
Having considered the above, we are satisfied that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
Your enquiry has been processed according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. If you are unhappy with our response, you may request an internal review with our Internal Review Officer by contacting them, within two months of receipt of our final response to your Freedom of Information (FOI) request, as follows:
Internal Review Officer
Customer Service Centre
Please include the reference number above. You may request an internal review where you believe Ordnance Survey has:
- Failed to respond to your request within the time limits (normally 20 working days)
- Failed to tell you whether or not we hold the information
- Failed to provide the information you have requested
- Failed to explain the reasons for refusing a request
- Failed to correctly apply an exemption or exception
The Internal Review Officer will not have been involved in the original decision. They will conduct an independent internal review and will inform you of the outcome of the review normally within 20 working days, but exceptionally within 40 working days, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidance.
The Internal Review Officer will either: uphold the original decision, provide an additional explanation of the exemption/s applied or release further information, if it is considered appropriate to do so.
Appeal to Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
If, following the outcome of the internal review you remain unhappy with our response, you may raise an appeal, within three months of receiving our response, with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Further information can be found on the ICO website.