Limited companies (including LLPs) have a legal obligation to supply information to the registrar of companies (Companies House) upon incorporation and throughout their lifetime. Most of this company information can be viewed on the Companies House search service, which is a free online facility providing open access to the UK companies register.
Below, we will take a look at the company information you can find using the Companies House search service. We’ll also discuss how this can be of benefit to other businesses and the general public.
What is the Companies House search service?
The Companies House search service is essentially an online facility, open to the general public, that allows searches to be carried out on companies that have been incorporated (registered) in the UK.
There are two methods of searching the companies register. You can use either:
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 range of company details and documents can be obtained through Companies House search, including:
- Registered company address – current and previous registered office addresses
- Date of company incorporation – when the company was registered and came into existence
- Company status – whether the company is active or dissolved
- Type of company – e.g., private limited company, PLC, limited liability partnership
- Company number
- Current and resigned officers – this includes directors, company secretaries, and LLP members, in addition to the dates of their appointments and resignations
- Correspondence address (service address) of company officers – often the same as the registered office address
- Nationality, country of residence, date of birth, and occupation of company directors
- Disqualified directors
- Persons with significant control (PSCs) – this includes their date of birth, nationality, correspondence address, country of residence, the nature of their control over the company, and when Companies House was notified of their PSC status
- Company accounts – including when the last annual accounts were made up to, and when the next accounts are made up to and due to be filed
- Confirmation statements – including the date of the last confirmation statement and when the next one is due
- Nature of business – categorised by up to four Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, which describe what the company does
- Company document images – PDFs of confirmation statements, micro company accounts, appointment and termination filings, company address changes, incorporation documents, and other filings made by a company since its formation
- Mortgage charge data
- Previous company names
- Insolvency information
- Other business activity
You can also sign up to ‘follow’ a company through the Companies House search facility. This free service will provide you with email alerts whenever the company makes filings, allowing you to stay up to date with any changes to the information held on a particular company. To follow a company, you need to register for an account on Companies House service.
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
- Public limited companies (PLCs)
- Private unlimited companies
- 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 service?
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 that could be of benefit to your own company.
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 that 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, whilst 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?
Addresses provided to Companies House are often the biggest cause for concern for directors and LLP members.
Registered office address
This is the official address of a limited company or LLP. Company directors and LLP members can provide their home address as a registered office, but this information is published on the companies register and is visible to the general public. Currently, a home address that was initially submitted as a registered office address cannot be removed from the companies register.
Correspondence address (service address)
Every director and LLP member is required to provide a correspondence address, also known as a ‘service address’, to Companies House. Whilst you can provide your home address as a correspondence address, it will be visible to the public on the companies register.
You can change this address and/or ask Companies House to remove it from the register, but you will have to provide an alternative address in its place.
Many companies without commercial premises use professional address services instead. By doing so, directors and LLP members can keep their home address details off of the companies register and prevent this personal information from appearing on the Companies House search service.
1st Formations provides professional registered office address and service address facilities in both London and Glasgow. These addresses appear on the companies register and enable directors and LLP members to protect their privacy.