I’m Robert McNeil, the service manager for the Companies House Service (CHS). As CHS is a year old, I’ve taken a look at some stats on its use, developments over the year and future plans.
At the end of June 2015, in line with the government’s commitment to free data, we launched CHS, a website providing access to our register. For the first time all the public data we held became available free of charge, this meant access to 170 million digital records.
By the end of March 2016 there were 63.9 million searches of filing history using CHS. To give you a comparative feel for this high search volume, during the same period there were 4.7 million equivalent searches on our legacy systems (including WebCHeck and Companies House Direct).
Free access to company data is available via CHS and an application program interface (API); used by technology providers to access real time information on companies. We're currently fulfilling around 14 million search requests per day: 5 million using CHS, 9 million via the API. The biggest peak for us was in April this year with a combined 16 million searches in one day.
CHS is built around a public API and allows third parties to access the same data and functionality at no cost for use in their own services. This greatly expands the accessibility and usefulness of our data and has made the register more transparent and open to use by all parts of the UK’s economy.
People have used our API data in a range of useful and even quirky ways. For example, an app developer created Companies House Connector, which brings companies’ real time information to Salesforce (a customer relationship management product). And someone developed a data map on Iron Maiden’s company structure based on co-director relationships.
The service is in public beta phase, which means it’s still in development. Since we rolled out the service we’ve introduced a few new features, such as disqualified director search, where you can search name, address, disqualification reason and dates. Other new features include finding whether a non-UK company has a UK establishment, and a previous and dissolved company names search.
Another recent feature came as a result of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act. From 6 April 2016 limited companies were required to keep a record of people with significant control (PSC) and provide us with the details. Since 30 June 2016 we have been receiving PSC data and featured it on CHS for the applicable company under a PSC tab.
We've also just launched 'company name availability checker', so people can see if a company name they want is available.
A wide range of society access CHS. Its use varies from the general public wanting to know about a company for consumer confidence purposes, to businesses assessing due diligence, to police and journalists using it for their investigations.
Journalists have been vocal about their approval for the service. David Pegg, a reporter for the Guardian, said that free Companies House data was “the best thing for journalism since FOI”. We’ve also received positive feedback from the public, for example someone told us CHS is “the best thing the government has done since 1945”.
Currently you can file a change of registered office address using CHS, but all other forms are still required to be filed via WebFiling. However, over the coming year CHS will expand its filing capabilities so that it can eventually replace all legacy services.
Soon we’ll be releasing a new feature called ‘follow’. This will enable people to monitor a company and receive notifications via email every time a followed company files with us. Keep an eye on our site and social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) for news of this and future releases.