As many company and partnership stakeholders will know, Companies House holds a great deal of up to date information about all UK companies, much of which is publicly available online. The ease of availability of company information makes the UK’s business environment one of the most transparent and attractive in the world.
UK limited companies are legally obligated to provide Companies House (the UK’s registrar of companies) with a wide range of important information when they are being registered and this must be kept up to date throughout the life of the company through annual and ad hoc filings. Much of this company information can be accessed by anyone for free through the online Companies House search service.
In this article we will explain what information is available on the Companies House Search service, why businesses and individuals use this service and the improvements that are being made to this service.
What is the Companies House search service?
The Companies House search service was launched in 2015 and is a free online facility that lets any individual or business search for and view up to date information about registered limited companies and LLPs that is held by Companies House. According to Companies House the service is used more than 9.4 billion times every year.
The Companies House search service holds information on the following types ofcompanies:
- Private companies limited by shares.
- Private companies limited by guarantee.
- Public limited companies (PLCs).
- Private unlimited companies.
- Limited liability partnerships (LLPs).
- Limited partnerships.
The information available through the Companies House search service can also be accessed through the Companies House “application programme interface” (API). This is used, for example, to allow businesses to automatically retrieve company information from Companies House into their systems without the need to perform a manual online search.
Companies House manages also the legacy WebCheck service, although this service will close later in 2022 and users will be directed to use the newer search service.
There is no need to register or provide proof of identity to use the Companies House search service.
What information is available through the Companies House search service?
The following data is available for free through the Companies House search service:
- Basic company information including:
- Company number.
- Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.
- Registered company addresses, both current and previous.
- Date of incorporation – i.e. registration – with Companies House.
- Type of company, e.g. private limited company, PLC (public limited company), or limited liability partnership.
- Company status – i.e. whether the company is at present actively trading or dissolved.
- Date of last accounts or confirmation statement filed.
- Due date of next accounts or confirmation statement.
- Full transaction filing.
- Company document images including PDF copies of:
- Confirmation statements.
- Micro company accounts.
- Appointment filings.
- Termination filings.
- Company address changes.
- Incorporation documents.
- Filings made by a company since its formation.
- Officer searching.
- Current and resigned officers – including dates of appointment and resignation of company directors, company secretaries and LLP members.
- Directors – including date of birth, nationality, country of residence and occupation.
- Disqualified directors.
- Persons with significant control (PSCs) including their date of birth, nationality, address, country of residence, their control over the company and date of notification of PSC status.
- Previous and dissolved names search.
- Mortgage charge data.
- Insolvency information.
The Companies House search service provides also company snapshot reports, an alphabetical search function and the facility to order certificates and certified documents.
Why use the Companies House search service?
There are many reasons to use the Companies House search service. Individuals (e.g. investors) and businesses can use the service to view important information about companies of interest. Registered users can also “follow” companies by receiving automatic e-mail updates of any new filings.
Other reasons to use the Companies House search service include:
- Checking that information provided is correct and up to date (e.g. company information provided on a business loan form or contract).
- Checking for matters of concern or red flags (e.g. insolvency) before entering into a new business relationship.
- Checking whether a company name has been used (this can be done using the “Company name availability checker” service).
- Assessing business competition.
- Finding People with Significant Control (PSC), which is particularly useful for businesses providing products and services to companies.
- Researching financial transactions when forming a legal opinion.
- Consumers checking that a company is legitimate before engaging their services.
How to perform a company search
The Companies House search service can be used in two modes; basic or advanced. In the basic mode the user simply types in a company name, number or officer name and looks through the results.
The advanced search function allows the user to carry out more complex searches of company information. This is extremely useful if the exact details of the company are unknown. For example, the user can search for company names that contain certain words or characters and exclude others. The advanced search allows users also to narrow searches based on:
- Date of incorporation.
- Company type.
- Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.
- Company subtype (e.g. Community interest company or private fund limited partnership).
- Date of dissolution.
Can I hide my address from a Companies House search?
Understandably, one of the concerns about such publicly available company information is privacy. We are often asked by directors and other individuals connected with a company whether their address can be hidden from the public register.
Unfortunately, your company’s registered office address cannot be removed from the public register, even if it is a personal home address. You can, however, have your home address removed from the public register if it is used as a company correspondence (service) address.
To ask Companies House to remove your personal address, you need to:
- Check which specific documents contain your home address. This can be verified by using the Companies House search service.
- Download and complete the application form (SR01 Application under section 1088 by an individual to make an address unavailable for public inspection).
- Pay a fee of £32 to remove your address from each document.
- Send your completed application form and payment to:
The Registrar of Companies
PO Box 4082
Where possible, we recommend that a separate commercial address is used when incorporating a new company. This ensures that personal addresses are not held on public record and, therefore, do not need to be removed at a later date.
New functions of the Companies House search service
Companies House are constantly developing the functions of the search service. A recent white paper entitled “Corporate Transparency and Register Reform”, by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, stated that the government had “committed to consider ways in which information on the register could be displayed more effectively, and we subsequently sought views on what would be the most useful financial and non-financial information to display on the company overview page on the Companies House Service (CHS)”.
One of the latest changes to the Companies House search service is the facility to file full or abridged company accounts as an alternative to the WebFiling service. To do this, authorised users need to:
- Go to the Companies House search service
- Enter the company name or number.
- Select “File for this company”.
- Sign into or register with Companies House.
- Enter the company’s authentication code.
- Select “File accounts”.
As Companies House explains, although new company filing functionality is being developed for the search service, users should continue to use the WebFiling service to file other items, including:
- Confirmation statements.
- Company accounts.
- Directors and company secretaries – for example, new appointments, resignations, or changes to personal details.
- Changing a company name.
- Changing an accounting reference date.
In addition, following the government’s response to the Corporate Transparency and Register Reform consultation, Companies House recently decided to stop removing dissolved records from the search results and put back onto the system the records of all companies dissolved since the beginning of 2010.
Other new functions of the Companies House search service include:
- An alphabetical company search.
- A dissolved company search.
- Ordering certificates and certified documents.
How accurate is information placed on public record?
As Companies House makes clear, they cannot and do not verify the accuracy of the information filed with them. They perform basic checks on the documents submitted to them, to ensure that they are complete and have been signed, but they do not have the “statutory power or capability to verify the accuracy of the information that companies send”. They state also: “the fact that the information has been placed on the public record should not be taken to indicate that Companies House has verified or validated it in any way”.
All companies and limited partnerships have a legal obligation to file accurate and up to date information. For this reason the Companies House search service provides a vital source of information to individuals and businesses across the UK.
Uniwide Formations provides many services that are relevant to this article, just a few of these being:
- Checking whether a Company Name is Available for Use
- Filing a Confirmation Statement
- Filing Dormant Company Accounts