The Act introduces measures allowing individuals whose details appear on the public register at Companies House to apply to have certain personal information suppressed from public disclosure.
The detail relating to these measures will be confirmed in secondary legislation (yet to be published), but the Government’s aim is to strike a balance between transparency over who is running companies and ensuring that the register does not become a tool for abuse.
What personal information can be protected?
The Act introduces a process whereby any individual listed on the Companies House register will be able to apply to have specified information suppressed from public disclosure, including the following:
- residential address – in most instances where the address appears on the register (e.g. when used as a registered office address);
- business occupation;
- day of date of birth for documents filed before 10 October 2015 (after this date only month and year of birth are shown on the public register);
- name, or in the most serious cases, all required particulars (e.g. service address and partial date of birth) where evidence is provided that an individual is at serious risk of violence or intimidation; and
- sensitive addresses where evidence is provided that the residents are at serious risk of violence or intimidation (e.g. a women’s refuge).
What will the application process be?
The detail behind the application process will be set out in regulations, which have yet to be published. The Government has confirmed, however, that it will be the responsibility of the applicant to specify where their personal information appears on the register. There will also be circumstances where new information will be required before existing information is suppressed. For example, a valid alternative address will need to be provided before a current residential address being used as a registered office can be suppressed.
Although applicants will generally not need to satisfy an evidential threshold when applying to suppress information, they will need to provide evidence that an individual is at risk of harm when seeking to protect a name, other particulars (e.g. a service address) or a “sensitive” registered office address. The application will have to contain details of the risk and include documentary evidence and/ or an attestation to support this.
Access to suppressed information
Access to suppressed information is currently available to certain groups, such as law enforcement agencies and other public authorities and this will continue to be the case. The registrar will have greater powers to share data with these groups when the relevant provisions of the Act come into force and will, therefore, be able to share any suppressed or protected information if deemed necessary.
Regulations will also be introduced which provide exceptions to the restrictions on the registrar disclosing suppressed information. These exceptions are expected to allow:
- persons with current or prospective legal proceedings to apply to Companies House for access to a suppressed address used as a registered office address, or a signature, if they can provide evidence of the legal proceedings; and
- other third parties to apply to the court for access to certain suppressed information. They will need to satisfy the court of their legitimate need to access this information.