New Laws Impose Restrictions on Company Names

New Laws Impose Restrictions on Company Names

Limited companies will face greater restrictions on the names they can register with Companies House, following the introduction of new legislation.

From 1 October 2009, the Company and Business Names Regulations (93K PDF) will set out which characters, signs, symbols and punctuation can be used in company names, and tighten up new rules about registering names that are too similar.

According to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the changes are being made so that companies can be easily found on public records, to avoid confusion between companies with similar names, and so that the legal status of businesses is clear.

Speaking on the new laws BERR spokeswoman, Anne Scrope, said:

"At the moment a newly adopted company name can be challenged for being too similar to an existing name, but from October Companies House will automatically stop it from being registered in the first place. It can be expensive to have to change your name later on and we want to make things easier for them.

"We also have an increasing problem with international companies trying to register in the UK with names including characters that are from different alphabets. Under the rules, companies will no longer be able to register with a name in Urdu or Japanese for example – they will have to use letters from the Roman alphabet."

Scrope said that using punctuation or subtle differentiators between names can cause businesses problems.

"There was an example of a company that had a ‘2’ in the middle of its name and another had the word ‘to’ and when one of them went bust, the other went down with it. We want to help firms avoid this."

Under the Companies Act, firms are required to end their name with an indicator of their legal status, for example ‘limited’ or ‘LLP’. From October, businesses which are not companies will not be able to use these same words or phrases to imply that they have the same legal status.

"All these changes will only affect newly incorporated companies or those registering with a new name," said Scrope.

For more information on the changes to company names, see the Company and Business Names Regulations (93K PDF)

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