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Companies House announces reforms to protect businesses from fraud

The UK government has announced it will give companies better protection from fraud, under new Companies House reforms that will do more to safeguard the personal data of business owners and ensure the accuracy of the register.

Companies House announces reforms to protect businesses from fraud
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Business minister Kelly Tolhurst unveiled a substantial package of reforms to Companies House on Sunday, with the aim to help increase the accuracy and usefulness of the information available on the companies register, which last year was accessed 6.5 billion times and, as of March 2018, included over 4 million limited companies.

With the clear aim of minimising the burden on law abiding companies, the government said the reforms will contribute to UK efforts to tackle economic crime by increasing the traceability of company ownership and management while offering business owners and businesses greater protection from fraud.

In the last three years there have been almost 10,000 complaints to Companies House from people concerned about their personal details, with worries including fraud and use of personal details topping the list.

The package of proposed reforms include knowing who is setting up, managing and controlling companies; improving the accuracy and usability of data on the register; protecting personal information on the register; and improving the detection of possible criminal behaviour.

"The UK already has some of the strongest protections in the world against money laundering. We are ranked as one of the top countries worldwide for cracking down on economic crime - protecting businesses and consumers," said Ms Tolhurst.

"The reforms announced today will support the fight against the use of dirty money in the UK and enhance the protections for entrepreneurs and directors from criminal activity," she added. 

The UK has one of the highest ratings for cracking down on anonymous companies, and the government’s proposed measures build on Britain’s world-leading anti-corruption activity. In 2016, the UK became the first country in the G20 to introduce a public register of company ownership, while new protections against identity fraud for company directors were introduced in 2018.

"The register already plays a vital role in contributing to the UK’s economy through the investment decisions which rely on our data.

"This package of reforms represents a significant milestone for Companies House as they will enable us to play a greater part in tackling economic crime, protect directors from identity theft and fraud and improve the accuracy of the register," said chief executive of Companies House Louise Smyth. 

Director of policy at Transparency International UK, Duncan Hames welcomed the reforms, adding that Transparency International is pleased that public concerns about the accuracy of the company register have been heard. 

"The abuse of UK companies to launder stolen wealth has been evident in major global money laundering scandals, and well documented in our own research.

"Addressing these concerns therefore is an important move against ‘dirty money’ in the UK, which complements the government’s widely supported plans for a new register of who ultimately owns the overseas entities that own property here," Mr Hames said. 

If brought forward, this package of proposals will be the largest change to the UK system of setting up and operating companies since the register was created in 1844, the government concluded. 

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