Limited companies can either trade under their official registered name or another business name. However, almost all private companies are required to include the word ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ (‘Cyfyngedig’ or ‘Cyf’ for Welsh companies with a registered office in Wales) at the end of their registered company name during the incorporation process, unless they qualify for exemption.
Some of these rules relate to the uniqueness of a company name, whilst other rules prohibit the use of offensive or ‘sensitive’ words and expressions.
‘Limited’ should not be used in trading names
Most companies trade under their official registered name, which will usually end in ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’.
If you trade under your registered company name, you must show the name in full (including ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ ) on certain signs and stationery. However, it is also possible to trade under an alternative business name.
Business names (also known as trading names) can be any name that does not infringe another company’s trade mark and does not contain any offensive or ‘sensitive’ words.
Furthermore, a trading name must not include the following words or abbreviations:
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Public Limited Company
- any Welsh equivalents of these English words
Where you must display your company name in full
Whilst business names can be used for general trading purposes, registered company names must also be displayed in full on:
Companies are required to display their full company name on a sign at their registered office address and any other address where the business operates from.
The sign should be visible 24/7. This rule does not apply to private residential addresses.
Websites, emails, and stationery
Your registered company name must be displayed on business websites, emails, letters, promotional material, and all other forms of company stationery. This is to ensure that the public is aware that your business is a limited company.
Exemption from including ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ in a company name
In accordance with section 60 of the Companies Act 2006, there are certain circumstances in which limited companies are permitted to omit the word ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ (or the Welsh equivalents), namely if:
- the company is a registered charity or limited by guarantee (as opposed to limited by shares); and
- its articles of association state that the company:
- promotes or regulates commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity, or any profession; and
- is prohibited from paying its shareholders (e.g. through dividends); and
- requires that, in the event of the business being wound up, the firm’s assets will be transferred to another body with similar charitable objects.
The company formation application form contains a section for claiming exemption from using the word ‘limited’ in a company name.
To claim exemption after incorporation, limited by guarantee companies must complete Companies House form NE01.