I am delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to the Brodies blog as a guest blogger. I recently joined Companies House as the new Registrar for Scotland on returning to the UK, after 11 years in New Zealand working for government in the primary industries sector.
At the time I left the UK in 2004, I had been in a role where I was a frequent user of the Companies House search service.
My memories are that it was a bit clunky, not all the information was readily available and, while it was not expensive to use, the costs did mount up during extensive search periods. Quite a bit has changed in the intervening years and 2015 saw two significant changes to how Companies House engages with its customers and does business.
The first of these was the launch of the new Companies House service (CHS). This is predominately a search site, but it will in time become the only portal through which all company searches and filing occurs. At present CHS is running in tandem with WebCheck and Companies House Direct, but the intention is that these services will be scaled back and replaced by CHS.
Businesses are being encouraged to make the switch to CHS. For more information on how to make this switch please contact Lynda Brown at [email protected]
The second change came in June with the announcement that all public digital data held on the UK register of companies would now be accessible free of charge via the CHS site. With 170 million records and rising this latest change makes the UK register one of the most open in the world, and the UK economy one of the most transparent when it comes to business information. For the first time, access to company financial accounts and information about directors and secretaries, as well as other information throughout the life of the company, is now available free of charge.
CHS is a beta site, which means it is still evolving as new functionality continues to be developed. However, it is already capable of providing the following search features:
- company overviews
- current and resigned officers
- officer searching
- document images
- mortgage charge data
- previous company names
- insolvency data
- change registered office address
Images of many of the previously filed documents are also available on the site. If there is a document image that is not available on CHS you can request a copy from Companies House. We use these search requests as an opportunity to update the image stock as the volume of historic paper filings means it has not yet been possible to add all images to CHS.
As the functionality of CHS increases so will the type of information that can be freely accessed. In time, CHS will be extended to include searches on disqualified directors, company monitoring, company name availability, dissolved companies and overseas data.
It is also worth noting that our decision to move to free data is not linked to our filing fee structure, and Companies House will not be increasing its fees to offset the costs associated with this free service.