What company information can I find on the internet for free?
In the twenty first century lots of people are familiar with the Internet, regularly using major search engines like Google to get both instant answers to queries and access to information they need. Nowadays many things which were once done in person (like shopping and banking), or by post, (such as buying Premium Bonds and TV licenses or requesting birth, marriage death certificates while tracing a family tree), are all easily done online.
While some express concerns over the safety of online personal data, or despair at the changing face of acceptable communication methods there are still plenty of advantages to be had from living in a digital world; and this is especially true when looking for information on a company.
Why bother looking up company information?
Basically this is a simple thing to do to check there are no major red flags around a company (or director of the company) that say you are considering doing business with, or offering credit too. The results you find may not paint a full picture of someone’s attitude to business or reliability, but it will definitely give you something to work with, or of course put your mind at rest if there’s nothing unusual to report. For example, a company with several consecutive years of trading losses recorded may not be good candidates for a credit account with your business, or there could be a good reason for those figures. At the very least it provides a starting point for questions to be asked, and possible explanations given.
While there are lots of websites online offering to source and collate company information on your behalf, for a fee, it pays to look around yourself, as there’s a surprising amount that anyone who cares to can find out about any British company, simply by using completely free online resources which are readily available to the general public.
Here are some more details on the types of company information you can access for free via the internet, and where to find it.
Companies House Service (CHS) is the obvious and logical place to start, as this organization is the major collator - provider of public data in this field. Not only is the information held free to view, there is no need to even register to do so. Companies House make the following available to the general public:
- The company’s basic information, such as the type of company it is, the registered office address.
- The nature of the business (based on what it was registered as).
- Current company status – whether it is live, dormant, or dissolved
- The date the last accounts and accounts confirmation statement were filed.
- The date the next accounts and accounts confirmation statement are due.
- Full accounts (or an abbreviated version if the company has a turnover below the minimum threshold)
- Copies of any relevant image documents
- A list of both current and resigned (previous) officers
- Details of any disqualified officers
- The search ability on any dissolved or previous names the company had
- Details of any current mortgage charges held against the company assets
- Relevant insolvency information
There is also a free option to get an automatic update when any changes are made, such as a new director is added, or company accounts are uploaded.
More on company director information
Certain details about a director of a registered company are always made public, and these include the director’s name, nationality, occupation, and both the month and year of their birth. Information on a company director’s address is less straightforward to access, as they provide a service (public) address, usually the business premises and a private (home) address. The latter is recorded in a private register while the service address is public knowledge. For privacy or other reasons some directors will use a so called ‘holding’ address for the public register, this is an address shared by lots of companies and used for receiving/forwarding mail. This is especially popular when say a virtual company has no physical office space, to avoid sharing home address details.
Bankruptcy and insolvency
Companies House also offer a free service allowing you to search for those who have been declared bankrupt or insolvent in England and Wales. To conduct a free search you need either a surname and if possible a first name), or a company name. If found the information will show:
- The date the person will be discharged (officially free of) the debt.
- Any debt relief orders
- Details of any Individual Voluntary Arrangements in place
These records are generally removed within 3 months of the case ending. There is also a further search engine where free information on those who have broken a bankruptcy or debt relief order is added.
Check the disqualified directors register
This register held by Companies House is an excellent free resource if you want to check if someone has been disqualified as a company director in the past. The information which can be freely accessed is a person’s:
- Date of Birth
- Last registered address
- The dates the disqualification began/will end
- The number of times they have been disqualified
- The name(s) of the company (or companies) they were disqualified from
- Whether or not they have the permission of the court to act as a director elsewhere
Looking for information on UK companies online is something extremely simple that anyone who has even just basic Internet skills can do, without having to pay for others to do the exact same thing. Although there are small charges attached if physical copies of documents are requested, the amount of completely free information around is more than enough to satisfy most people’s need