Post Office Ltd and the Freedom of Information Act

As a government owned entity Post Office Ltd still fall under the jurisdiction of the Freedom of Information Act – I bet you they wish they didn’t – but there you go.

I have just been sent this response to a Freedom of Information request by a colleague who was requesting POL to send him a list of Post Office Branches that were classified as Community status.

Heaven help us all – I nearly fell of my seat laughing at this load of Guff copied below – do they not realise it could end up on the Internet for everybody to see?

a) “some of these businesses could be thriving retail businesses” – well you would hope so wouldn’t you?  I mean not all the 2,000 or so community offices are going bankrupt surely?

b) ” could potentially damage the individual Postmaster”  – would that be mentally, physically or financially?  Idiots!

c) ” implications for those branches not on the list” – very sad but true – they are totally screwed by NT!

d) “deemed not to have community status but may be viewed by their customers as
serving the local community” – what planet are these morons on?  Don’t they think ALL branches are viewed by their customers as serving the local community – you have to laugh….

e) The rest?  Well you have to wonder how much these people are getting paid, their qualifications and probably more to the point the intellect of their manager who hired them in the first place.

Its good to laugh I guess

……………………………………….

Post Office Response ..

Post Office considers that if a list of community branches were to be released this would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of both Post Office Limited and individual Postmasters.  An example of how a Postmaster’s commercial interest could be prejudiced by the disclosure of this information is how a particular branch could be viewed.  Some of these businesses could be thriving retail businesses, that are deemed to be considered as classified as a community branch purely by location and proximity to other retailers, others may be very small operations that may be considered as non-commercial locations.  Releasing information into the public domain of the community status of a Post Office, could potentially damage the individual Postmaster and their business based on assumptions that may be made about the commercial nature of the business and/or the Post Office service.  Also, the release of such a list has implications for those branches not on the list that are then deemed not to have community status but may be viewed by their customers as
serving the local community.
In addition, information on the location, opening times and services provided at
specific Post Office branches is available on the Post Office website via the Post Office
branch finder tool such that customers have access to this information or this can be
obtained from the Post Office customer helpline on 0345-611-2970.
Personal Information 

We believe that such a list would contain the personal data of Postmasters. While the
list of branches deemed to be community branches may not identify a Postmaster by
name, we believe that because the nature of many Post Office branches is that they
are run by individuals, alongside their own private retail business, that reference to a
branch name is inextricable from a reference to the Postmaster who runs that branch,
particularly to those with local knowledge. We therefore believe that publishing a list
of branches allows living individuals to be identified from that information and
therefore constitutes personal data. The disclosure of a list would immediately make
all community branches public knowledge. The most immediate concern would be the
inferences that could be drawn between the categorisation of the branch as a
community branch, or not as the case may be, and the position of the individual
Postmaster in terms of the commercial nature of their business.

Public Interest 
As information has been exempted under Section 43(2) and Section 40(2) of the act,
a public interest test applies. This involves weighing the balance of public interest in
maintaining the exemption or releasing the information. Post Office Limited
understands that there is public interest in promoting the transparency and
understanding of matters which are of interest to the public. However, there is also
strong public interest in ensuring that Post Office, its branches and Postmaster’s are
able to operate in a fair marketplace regarding the dialogue procedure and to ensure
that Postmasters are not commercially damaged or harmed by the release of the
information.
Post Office considers that, with regard to the information that has been withheld from
disclosure, the public interest is best served by maintaining the exemptions respect of
the information requested.

I am sorry I have been unable to provide the information you requested, however if
you are dissatisfied with the handling of this response, you do have a right to request
an internal review. You can do this by writing to the address below stating your
reasons for your internal review request.

Information Rights Manager
Post Office Limited
Information Rights Team
1st Floor
Finsbury Dials
20 Finsbury Street
London
EC2Y 9AQ

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2 thoughts on “Post Office Ltd and the Freedom of Information Act

  1. I missed this one – “We therefore believe that publishing a list
    of branches allows living individuals to be identified from that information and
    therefore constitutes personal data.” — couple that with — information on the location, opening times and services provided at specific Post Office branches is available on the Post Office website via the Post Office
    branch finder tool such that customers have access to this information

    Unbelievable clap trap.

    Cheers, Tim

    Like

  2. Funny how that doesnt stop them putting full identifiable details on their own “runapostoffice” website, sometimes without even notifying the incumbent SPMR. Using their own justification, can that even be legal, does the Information Commissioner need to investigate?

    Like

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