Companies House: New Powers to Challenge and Change Company Names
June 27, 2024
Ed Maycock

On 4 March 2024, Companies House began implementing the first measures under the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act ("the Act"). These enhanced powers are aimed at improving the integrity of the UK business environment by tackling economic crime and ensuring greater transparency. Our detailed blog post on the proposed provisions can be found here.

Stricter checks on company names

One of the key provisions of these new measures is the enhanced scrutiny of company names. Companies House will now run stronger checks on names that may give a false or misleading impression to the public. This initiative, together with the other measures now in effect, is designed to improve the accuracy and quality of the data held and combat the misuse of company names. All together, the measures now give Companies House the powers to take preventative measures to maintain the robustness of information on the register of companies.

The new measures build upon existing controls, which already prohibit names that are too similar to existing ones or that use restricted terms implying a connection to the UK government or other sensitive words.

Under the Act, Companies House can now also reject applications to register names if there is reason to believe the name:

Moreover, Companies House has the authority to direct companies to change their names if they are found to be used, or intended to be used, for fraudulent activities. If a company fails to comply with this directive within 28 days, Companies House can assign a new name based on the company’s registered number and suppress the original name from the register.

Compliance and offences

Failure to comply with a directive to change a company name within 28 days constitutes an offence. Additionally, continuing to use a name that Companies House has directed to change is also an offence, underscoring the importance of adhering to these new regulations.

The role of the Company Names Tribunal

The Company Names Tribunal remains responsible for addressing objections to the use of names that are either identical to existing names with established goodwill or sufficiently similar to potentially mislead the public.

Future changes and implementation

The work to enhance the accuracy and integrity of the Companies House register will continue, with further changes planned for the coming years. These include mandatory identity verification for directors and other significant persons, streamlining account filing options for small and micro-entity companies, and transitioning towards mandatory software-based account filings, as mentioned in our previous blog post. Companies House will keep businesses updated on these changes as they come into effect.

Companies House: New Powers to Challenge and Change Company Names