Shifting Paradigms of Government Liability for Inaccurate Information

Christensen, Sharon A., Duncan, William D., & Stickley, Amanda P. (2008) Shifting Paradigms of Government Liability for Inaccurate Information. eLaw Journal, 15(2), pp. 185-211.

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Government and government agencies are the sole repository of much valuable information. The methods used by government to disseminate information to the public have changed significantly in the last five to 10 years. Advances in technology have changed the accessibility of information and governments have been more willing to use the internet as a means of dissemination. While some information is still specifically requested in exchange for payment of a fee, other information is freely available in publications or on the internet. Not only has accessibility of the information changed but also the complexity of the information. Freely available information is commonly available from government web sites and some of that information is aggregated data, compiled from a federation of sites operated by different government agencies. Government agencies also sell information to commercial providers who may or may not enhance the information or collate it to provide to paying customers. Thus, information recipients may be given the information free of charge or may be taking it upon the payment of a fee.

It is because of the diversity of access, purposes for which the information is utilised and the complex variety of forms in which the same information appears, that it is necessary to review the liability for the provision of all information from a number of viewpoints. The other aspect of the giving of information freely to the public is that such information must be accessible to any seeker and that a recipient can use the information for any purpose over which the government cannot really have any control, except in the case of resale.

In most fields of human endeavour, it is necessary to seek information which the recipient regards as ‘official’ and the only source of much of this information is usually the government in its varied guises, Commonwealth, State, local or in the guise of a government agency. Nearly all of these sources, loosely termed ‘public authorities’, are information monopolists. They are bodies constituted by statute and ‘entrusted by (that) statute with functions to be performed in the public interest or for public purposes’. Whatever these types of bodies may be called, it is clear that they are invested by statute with certain powers and exercise those powers in the discharge of their duties in the course of carrying out their functions.

This article principally concerns itself with the liability of those bodies for the dissemination of information to the public in circumstances where the recipients are reliant upon the information for serious commercial purposes such as the acquisition or disposition of property or businesses. The effect of disclaimers commonly found in information received from government sources which seek to absolve the information giver from the consequences of any inaccuracy, are also examined.

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ID Code: 17364
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: The contents of this journal can be freely accessed online via the journal's web page (see hypertext link).
Keywords: Government, Misleading information, Disclaimer of Liablity, Online information
ISSN: 1321-8247
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Property Law (excl. Intellectual Property Law) (180124)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Commercial and Contract Law (180105)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Law and Justice Research Centre
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 eLaw Journal and Sharon Christensen, Bill Duncan and Amanda Stickley
Deposited On: 03 Feb 2009 05:35
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:45

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