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MP urges Royal Mail rethink on postcode site takedown

Petition demands free database for non-profits

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Tom Watson MP has fired off a letter of complaint to the Royal Mail Group, in which he grumbles that the UK postal service’s legal action against a two-man operated postcode lookup site was a "heavy handed" and "deeply regrettable" move.

The Labour politician and ex-government minister for digital engagement asked the Royal Mail’s chief Adam Crozier to reconsider the firm’s decision to instruct lawyers to threaten ErnestMarples.com with legal action.

As we reported earlier this week, the North London-based UK postcode lookup service was slapped with a cease and desist letter from Royal Mail’s lawyers on 2 October that forced it to close down the website.

Before then, the Ernest Marples site had been providing web outfits with an API to power their sites that helped people search for a wide variety of local information such as tracking down the nearest decent greasy caff or finding out about nearby planning applications.

"I take the position that the postcode file and the data set of physical coordinates that go with it are a national asset that should be freely available to any UK citizen," Watson said.

The MP for West Bromwich East told Crozier that he planned to raise the matter in the House of Commons next week.

Ernest Marples directors Richard Pope and Harry Metcalf have also written to the Royal Mail lawyers, urging a debate about use of the contentious Postcode Address File (PAF) database, which currently requires companies and individuals to fork out annual licensing fees.

"There is a significant need for postcode data to be made available on more practical terms. We would very much like to open a dialogue with your client in order to see if a productive and mutually beneficial way forward can be found," wrote Pope and Metcalf.

Meanwhile, campaigners have started a online petition asking the PM, Gordon Brown, to "encourage the Royal Mail to offer a free postcode database to non-profit and community websites." It has so far garnered a little over 500 signatures. ®

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