Change in the law – coming soon.

If you are, or were a UK director and your residential address is on the UK register at Companies House, the law is changing to allow you to apply to remove it.

Why should I consider removing my residential address from the public register?

The proposed change to the law is a direct response to research identifying that company directors are twice as likely to be victims of identity fraud.

A joint report (“Who are the victims of identity fraud”) created between LexisNexis and Cifas (Leaders in Fraud Prevention) identified that 19% of identity fraud victims are company directors. The report identifies that fraudsters are using directors’ identities to obtain a “disproportionately high number of online retail and mobile phone accounts”.

Edward Whittingham, Managing Director of the Business Fraud Prevention Partnership (the BFPP) commented “Identity fraud is a real threat to directors at the moment. As ever more information is shared online, it makes it even easier for criminals to make use of this data. The personal data currently held on the UK register at Companies House is an easy target for criminals. We’ve recently been helping to educate a wide range of businesses on this exact issue – as people often don’t appreciate just how damaging identify fraud can be to them, nor do they realise just how easy they are making criminals lives by sharing the amount of information they do on the internet”.

What is the new legislation?

The Companies (Disclosure of Address) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 will allow individuals to apply to make their residential addresses unavailable for public inspection.

What is the current position?

Directors under Companies Act 2006 must file a service address and a residential address with Companies House (although in practice, a statement is often filed confirming that the two addresses are the same).

The service address is publicly available and the residential address is available to certain public bodies. Although it is permitted to use a service address, many individuals have and continue to file residential addresses at Companies House.

Regulations in 2009 changed the law to allow a director (and certain other categories of people) to apply to remove any residential addresses filed at Companies House if certain strict criteria are satisfied.

Applications are currently only permitted if there is a serious risk that the applicant (or a person living with them) will be subject to violence or intimidation as a result of the activities of the company with which they are involved.

This risk only applies to the activities of the company – it is completely irrelevant if the domestic circumstances of the individuals put them at risk. In addition, regardless of their circumstances, it does not take into account the extra risk of identity theft.

Furthermore, current applications only apply to information filed on or after 1 January 2003. Any information filed before this date cannot currently be suppressed at all (unless a confidentiality order has been granted). This was because previously, records were kept in different formats and the concern was that removing information from non-electronic records could damage the data.

What will the public register show under new legislation?

Under the proposed legislation, if you are a director of a live company (and you therefore have to have a current address on the public register), you will be permitted to provide a service address.

If there is no requirement to have a current address registered, you will be permitted to partially suppress the existing residential address to show only the first half of your postcode. This suppression can also apply to information filed before 1 January 2003 (as it is now possible to delete data from non-electronic records without damaging the public record) so the existing date restriction will not apply under the new law.

How can I apply?

The draft regulations are expected to come into force at the end of the summer 2018. If you need advice or further information on how to make an application, please contact any member of our Corporate team today.

How can I prevent identity theft?

Awareness of the types of threats that can be posed to you as an individual, as well as the organisation you work for, can be crucial in helping to prevent identify theft. Organisations are encouraged to adopt security awareness training programmes, to help individuals spot phishing emails and understanding the different types of scams that could leave them vulnerable to being compromised.

In addition, individuals should use strong passwords and keep a close eye on their credit scores to see if there is anything out of the ordinary.

Freeman Fisher thanks Edward Whittingham for his comments in this article. You can see the work which the BFPP do by visiting their website:- www.thebfpp.org

Please get in touch with Daniel Rodgerson or any other member of our Corporate team if you require advice or assistance with the upcoming changes.