What's in a name? Government publishes response to the Company and Business Names Consultation

11 December 2013

Our Company Secretarial experts summarise the response and the proposed reforms.

Earlier this year, the government launched a consultation seeking views on the future of the company and business name regulations. Its aim was to identify opportunities to improve and simplify the current system. Now, the government has published its response to that consultation.

Background

The overall aim of the business name regulations is to ensure that every company has a name that is easily differentiated from others and does not misrepresent the company's position in the eyes of the general public.

Key messages in the response

Reduced list of sensitive names

The consultation identified that while there is a need to protect the public, there is also scope for the sensitive words and expressions list to be simplified and for the number of entries on that list to be reduced. The list below sets out those words/expressions that will be removed from the list of sensitive names.

  • Abortion
  • Authority
  • Banknote
  • Board
  • Data Protection
  • Disciplinary
  • Discipline
  • European
  • Giro
  • Group
  • Holding
  • Human Rights
  • International
  • National
  • Oversight
  • Pregnancy termination
  • Register
  • Registered
  • Registration
  • Registry
  • Regulation
  • Rule committee
  • United Kingdom
  • Watchdog

One stop shop

The relevant legislation is to be merged and simplified. In the future compliance with the regulations should be less of a headache. Not only will their terms have been simplified, making them easier to understand, it will also be possible to find all the requirements in one place.

At present, the Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009 and related regulations contain restrictions on the choice of company name, and The Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008 contain provisions which aim to ensure that anyone who has dealings with a company knows its legal identity, status and where they can inspect the company records.

Streamlining

Companies House will streamline the sensitive name approval process and issue additional guidance to make the approval process more straightforward for businesses.
Even if a word does remain on the list of sensitive words and expressions, Companies House will be able to apply appropriate approval criteria where the proposed use of a sensitive word or expression is "innocuous".

This means it will no longer be necessary for businesses to seek approval from a specified body where the use of a particular word or expression falls within those criteria, giving businesses a more streamlined registration process. The approval criteria have yet to be issued by Companies House.

"Same as" regulations

These regulations specify all the words, expressions, signs and symbols which are to be disregarded when determining whether a proposed company name is the "same as" one already appearing on the Companies House register.

Respondents to the consultation expressed concern about how the current rules are operating in practice resulting in names being either accepted or rejected in circumstances where this was never intended to be the case. Companies House will remove the following words from the list of words to be disregarded:- Exports, Group, Holdings, Imports, International, Services (and Welsh and Gaelic equivalents).

What next?

The government will draft the regulations over the next few months.


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