What's in a Name? New Regulations on Company Names

Two new regulations came into force on 31 January 2015 to consolidate the rules relating to company names and trading disclosures. The changes have been introduced as part of the Government's "Red Tape Challenge" with the aim of reducing the administrative burden placed on companies. 

The main changes to the existing regime are:

Words to be ignored when determining if a name is the same

Section 66 of the Companies Act 2006 provides that a company cannot be registered with the same name as an existing company on the register at Companies House. Supplementary regulations set out a list of words that are to be disregarded when determining if company names are different. For example "United Kingdom" is to be disregarded so that "Real Coffee Cafe Limited" would be considered the same name as "Real Coffee Cafe United Kingdom Limited".

Under the new rules, the list of words to be disregarded have been reduced, including by deleting "Export", "Group", "Holdings", "International" and "Services".

This change aims to reduce the chances of a company name being rejected by Companies House, thereby saving companies the time and expense of having to re-apply for a slightly different name. On the other hand, businesses should be aware that another UK company may now be incorporated with a similar name to their own, where the new company adds a differentiating word such as "Group" to its name.

The new regulations have also closed a loop hole in the rules so that company names will no longer be treated as different simply by the addition of the words "and company" to the end of a name. "Plum Technology Limited" will now be treated as the same name as "Plum Technology and Company Limited", for example.

Words that require prior approval

The list of the sensitive words and expressions for which companies need special approval to use in their name have been reduced. The words that have been deleted include "National", "European", "Group", "Holding", "International" and "United Kingdom".

This reduces the situations in which companies will need to spend time justifying their proposed names, and should be particularly helpful for groups of companies who trade abroad as well as in the UK.

Increase in the list of permitted characters in company names

A broader range of characters, signs and symbols are now permitted to be used in a company name. However, companies should bear in mind that the "same name" rules (discussed above) have been updated so that accented letters and symbols will be treated the same as their Roman alphabet equivalents. For example, "Real Coffee Cafe Limited" will be regarded as the same name as "Real Coffee Café Limited".

Requirement to display company names at registered office

Amendments to the trading disclosure requirements mean that companies that operate in a place with more than five companies no longer have to continually display the register listing all those companies. Instead the information may be held and made available for inspection on request.

Guidance on company names

The Companies House revised guidance on incorporating and naming companies can be accessed online here.