Protection against identity fraud for company directors
New regulations allow directors to remove their residential address from the company register
New regulations, which came into force on 26 April 2018, will allow directors to remove their residential address from the register of companies held by the Registrar, whilst still ensuring transparency at Companies House.
This will be welcome news to directors, as research shows that directors are twice as likely to be victims of identity fraud. Since information on the register was made available free of charge in June 2015, the Registrar has received an increasing number of complaints from individuals who are concerned that, even though the public disclosure of their address puts them at risk, they are unable to have this information suppressed.
Background and context
Under the Companies Act 1985, a director’s usual residential address was publicly available on the register, unless a confidentiality order had been granted. With the implementation of the Companies Act 2006, directors were given the option to file a service address on the register so that their residential address would be kept private, however the residential address of a director could already be publicly available on the register - either because it was filed before the 2006 Act came into force or because the option to use a service address was not taken up.
The 2006 Act also introduced a mechanism to allow directors to apply to the Registrar to make residential address information filed on or after 1 January 2003 unavailable for public inspection. However, applications were subject to a requirement to demonstrate that the director (or someone who lives with them) is at serious risk of violence or intimidation as a result of the activities of a company with which they are involved.
Consequently such applications could be difficult to make and were very time-consuming. Evidence of the risk of violence or intimidation had to be provided and it was necessary to identify every form on the register where the director's home address was stated. Even if such an application was accepted, it would only apply to information filed on or after 1 January 2003 - meaning that a director's residential address which was filed before that date was still publicly available.
The new regulations:
- remove the requirement that a director must show a serious risk of violence or intimidation arising from a company’s activities; and
- allow applications in respect of information filed before 1 January 2003.
This will now make it far easier to remove references on the register to a director's residential address, although certain information will still need to be provided with such an application, including a fee of £55 for each document containing an address to be suppressed.
Where there remains a requirement for an applicant’s current address to remain on the register, the usual residential address will be replaced with a service address. Where there is no such requirement, the registrar will suppress all elements of the address except for the first half of the postcode or, where there is no such postcode in the address, information denoting an equivalent or larger geographical area (or, for non-UK addresses, the country or territory and the next principal unit of geographical subdivision).
Since 2009, a company has also been able to apply for the suppression of residential address information of all its members.
The new regulations:
- also make changes to these applications, although they are not quite as extensive - the “serious risk of violence or intimidation” test is being retained due to the potential effect on corporate transparency of large scale redactions of historic information;
- however, an individual member will be able to make an application for suppression without having to show a serious risk of violence or intimidation, in the same way as a director.
The "serious risk of violence or intimidation" test is also being retained in respect of an application by a person who registers a charge. Very few such applications have been received by the Registrar and no concerns about the test have been raised.
If you wish to speak to us about an application, please speck to Nick Currie, the head of our company secretarial services unit.
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