Lawyers encourage confidentiality clauses in contracts with public bodies

According to The Times, the majority of FOI requests in America to examine the files of government bodies come not from journalists or campaigning pressure groups but from businesses who want access to their competitors’ know-how.

One question is how the Act is going to operate regarding the sensitive information relating to the bidding for public contracts. Any organisation that has ever bid for work from the thousands of public bodies covered by the Act could now face the possibility of having their rivals seeking information on their tender proposals.

One danger of the new laws is that public bodies could hand over commercially sensitive information to comply with FOI and then find that they are being sued by their suppliers.

David Coleman, a partner at the law firm Macfarlanes, stated: "We are advising private equity managers that information provided by them to public authorities should be supplied with strict confidentiality provisions set out in the relevant partnership agreement — and clearly marked as ‘confidential’.”

Long-held business secrets are most at risk: Competitors have been handed a powerful intelligence tool by the Freedom of Information Act (The Times, 11 January 2005)