Summary: One Year Waiting for the Information Commissioner’s Ruling
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On 8 November 2013, Access Info’s partners, GONG, sent a request to the Ministry of Justice and another one to the High Commercial Court, requesting access to the complete database of the company register under the Croatian Act on the Right of Access to Information. On 8 November 2013, GONG also filed a request with the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. The deadline for responding to requests under the Law on the Right of Access to Information is of 15 working days in Croatia.
High Commercial Court: On the 11 November 2013 the High Commercial Court telephoned GONG asking for clarification of the request, saying that we needed to be more specific about the kind of information we were requesting. The representative of the High Commercial Court informed us orally that they could not provide us with all the data but that our colleagues at GONG were welcome to go over to the Court to see it. We requested that this response be sent to us in writing as well.
We received a response from the High Commercial Court on 22 November which stated that the complete database was only held by the Ministry of Justice, referring us to them.
Ministry of Justice: On 14 November 2013, the Ministry of Justice also sent a request for clarifications, stating that, in their opinion, the original request was incomplete and too vague. They asked us to specify what we meant by “reusable data”, to state exactly what information we wanted from the register and to clarify whether we were filing an access to information request or a request for re-use of public sector information.
On 18 November 2013, we replied to the Ministry of Justice’s request for clarification, specifying that we were requesting all information contained in the database, under a freedom of information request but that we planned to re-use the information for non-commercial purposes.
On 25 November we received a response from the Ministry of Justice which rejected the request, arguing that there were other provisions in the company register laws that needed to be considered besides the Law on the Right of Access to Information. Since the company register database is held by the Commercial Court, the Ministry of Justice also rejected the request based on the exception to protect the efficient, independent and unbiased court, administrative or other legally regulated proceedings, and execution of court orders or sentences.
On 9 December 2013, our colleagues at GONG filed a complaint against the decision of the Ministry of Justice before the Croatian Information Commissioner, arguing that the procedures outlined in the Act on the Court register and its relevant by-laws do not actually contain clear criteria for denying or allowing access to the Court register data. We also argued that the Ministry should have responded in line with the right of access to information and that it therefore should have applied the Freedom of Information Act instead of the Court Register Act and its by-laws.
However, as of August 2015, over one and a half years later, we are still awaiting the ruling from the Information Commissioner.
“The Croatian Commercial Court, which holds the company register, is governed by an Act that states that the register is public and that it contains information and documents about entities which are required to register by law.”
Chamber of Commerce: On 21 November 2013, the Chamber of Commerce refused access to the company register database due to its Rules on Data Secrecy. It did, however, offer to send information only for 500 companies, which demonstrates that there are no legal obstacles to providing access to the whole database. In their response, the Chamber of Commerce also informed us that the President of the Chamber could have granted access to the information, even if covered by an exception, if the request is considered “reasonable”. However, this information could only be examined directly in person, and there would be no way of making a copy of it or of transmitting it to third parties.
On 3 December 2013 GONG filed a complaint before the Information Commissioner arguing against the Chamber’s refusal. GONG argued in its complaint that the company register database is not covered by the intellectual property Data Secrecy Act because it contains public information obtained from registers that are already public. GONG also emphasised that the Chamber failed to apply any of the exceptions contained in the Law on the Right of Access to Information and that it did not apply a proportionality test or a public interest test.
As of August 2015, one and a half years later, this complaint is still pending before the Information Commissioner.
Accessing the Croatian Company Register:
|How to access the Register||The Official Company Register held by the High Commercial Court is available online here: https://sudreg.pravosudje.hr/registar/f?p=150:1The Croatian Chamber of Commerce has also created its own company register database using the data held by the Court. It can be accessed here: http://www1.biznet.hr/HgkWeb/do/extlogon?lang=hr_HROn the website of the Chamber of Commerce you can search through the records freely by leaving the search field blank. You can then access each entry individually, but if you need an extract you must request it specifically. No bulk access is possible.|
|Information available (for free)||From the High Commercial Court: Registration number, Company name / Name of representatives, address, contacts, name and surname of the CEO, Year of foundation, The main activity, number of employees, Company size, The legal form of company, The main transaction account, Date of registration, if the company was terminated, territorial jurisdiction of the Chamber.From the Croatian Chamber of Commerce: Registration number, Company name / Name of representatives, address, contacts, name and surname of the CEO, Year of foundation, The main activity, The legal form of company, whether the company is terminated, territorial jurisdiction of the Chamber.|
|Cost per record||Accessing the information is free, unless you need an extract or a certified copy.|
|Cost for whole database||It is not possible to download the whole database.|