New Powers for Companies House Over Company Names

Companies House has strengthened its powers to challenge or change company names it considers false or misleading under new measures granted by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act.

The new rules, which came into force on 4 March 2024, allow Companies House to run stronger checks on company names that are considered to give a false or misleading impression to the public.

The executive agency can also now reject an application to register a name where it has reason to believe:

  • The name is intended to facilitate fraud.
  • The name is comprised of or contains a computer code.
  • The name is likely to give the false impression the company is connected to a foreign government or an international organisation whose members include two or more countries or territories (or their governments).

Companies House can also direct companies to change their name if, for example, the name has been used, or is intended to be used, by the company to facilitate fraudulent activity.

If a company fails to change its name within 28 days, the registrar can also now determine a new name for the business, such as by changing the company name to its registered company number.

The Economic Crime Act also gives Companies House the power to suppress a name from the register while a company responds to a direction to change its name.

It is considered an offence if a company does not respond to a direction to change its name within 28 days or if it continues to use a name that Companies House has directed to change.

The new measures build on Company House’s existing controls over company names. These include that business names cannot be the same as or too similar to an existing company name, and that certain terminology, such as words implying a connection to the UK government or using a sensitive word or expression, cannot be used.

The government hopes that strengthening the regulatory body’s powers will improve the accuracy and quality of the data held by Companies House and improve transparency over corporate entities.

The new measures are the latest in a series of changes to UK company law introduced by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act as part of the government’s bid to disrupt economic crime.

More than five million limited companies are registered in the UK, and over 500,000 new companies are incorporated each year.

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