All limited companies are required to provide certain details to the registrar of companies, Companies House, and ensure these are kept up to date with annual confirmation statements. Many of these details are available to anyone using the Companies House search service.
In this blog, we will take a look at the types of information accessible using this public service, and how this can help other companies.
What is the Companies House search service?
The Companies House search service is essentially an online facility, open to the general public, which allows searches to be carried out on the database of all companies which have been registered in the UK.
There are two methods of searching the register of companies:
The new Companies House search service is entirely free of charge. It was introduced in 2015 and serves more than 2 billion searches each year.
The older WebCheck service requires registration and payment of £1 for certain documents.
What information is accessible through Companies House search?
A wide array of company details can be obtained using the search facilities, including:
- Registered company address – this is the current registered office address
- Date of company incorporation – when the company was first registered and came into existence
- Company status – whether the company is active or dissolved
- Company type – e.g. private limited company, PLC, etc
- Company number
- Current and resigned officers – this includes directors and company secretaries, along with when they were appointed and resigned
- Company directors’ and secretaries’ correspondence addresses – this will normally be the same as the registered office address
- The nationality, country of residence, date of birth, and occupation of company directors
- Disqualified directors
- Persons with significant control (PSCs) – this includes when Companies House was notified of the fact they were a PSC, their date of birth, nationality, correspondence address, country of residence, and the nature of their control over the company
- Company accounts – when the last accounts were made up to and when the next accounts are made up to and due
- Confirmation statements – when the last confirmation statement was submitted and when the next one is due
- Nature of business – categorised by a min. of one SIC code
- Company document images – in particular, this includes various information regarding filing history, e.g. PDFs of confirmation statements, micro company accounts, termination of appointments, etc
- Mortgage charge data
- Previous company names
- Insolvency information
- Other business activity
It is possible to ‘follow’ a company after finding it through the Companies House search facility. Following a company allows someone to stay updated with any changes to the information held on that company by Companies House. Following a company involves registering for a Companies House account.
Which types of companies can be found on Companies House search?
All companies in the UK are required to register their details with Companies House. This includes:
- Private companies limited by shares
- Private companies limited by guarantee
- Private unlimited companies
- Public limited companies (PLCs)
- Limited liability partnerships (LLPs)
- Limited partnerships
Information on these types of companies can be found via the Companies House search facility.
How can other businesses use the Companies House search?
The Companies House search service can be extremely useful for any business working with another company.
Searching for details on the history of a company or its directors can help to ascertain whether there are any potential red flags, particularly at the start of a new business relationship. For example, doing a quick search will display how long a company has been established and if any of the directors are involved with other companies.
Running a Companies House search on competitors may also yield useful information.
This has become particularly pertinent since April 2016, when all companies have been required by law to maintain a register of People with Significant Control (PSC). In a 2019 post-implementation review of the PSC register regulations, 22% of businesses surveyed had made use of the PSC register when researching other companies, and most of these considered access to the register useful.
Of the businesses which had used the PSC register to look up information about the PSCs of other businesses, the majority (64%) were researching their clients and customers. 64% of these found the information contained in the PSC register useful and 29% found it very useful.
Can consumers use the Companies House search facility?
Consumers often make use of review websites to assess the reputability of a new company when they are buying goods or services from them for the first time. But they can also use the Companies House search service to find out more information about the company and who controls it.
In practice, this may be less useful for consumers compared to other businesses, but it can still provide valuable information for those individuals willing to spend some time and effort investigating a company more thoroughly.
Can I remove my personal details from Companies House search?
The personal details which are most often the source of concern for company directors are addressing:
Registered office address
This is the official address of a limited company. A registered office address can be the home address of a company director, but it is published on the public register of companies and is therefore viewable by the general public. Currently, a home address that was initially submitted as the registered office address cannot be removed from the public register.
Directors’ correspondence address
All company directors are required to provide a correspondence address, also known as a ‘service address’, to Companies House. Although a correspondence address can be the home address of a company director, it is also stored on the public register of companies.
It is possible to change this address on the register but an alternative address must be submitted.
Companies which do not have a commercial office are able to use professional address services to ensure the personal addresses of directors do not appear on the Companies House search.