New search arrangements under the Companies Ordinance?

On June 18 this year, the Companies Registry gazette the new search arrangement under the Companies Ordinance, and the first phase of the arrangement was officially implemented on August 23 (the provisions were passed by the Legislative Council in 2012, but not yet effective), all those who intend to set up a company, or have become a company proprietor, need to understand the possible impact behind the arrangement.

New search arrangements under the Companies Ordinance?

According to the new search arrangements under the Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622), there are two types of information previously available for public inspection of the companies register that will become “protected information”, including:

• the director’s correspondence address in lieu of the usual residential address;

• Partial identification numbers of directors, company secretaries, and other related persons in lieu of full identification numbers.

Likewise, a company can choose to keep the usual residential address, and full identification number (except the first part) contained in the register from public inspection. In general, protected data can only be obtained through application by “specified persons”, including data subjects, authorizers, etc.

Purpose of the new arrangement

The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau have disclosed the purpose of the new arrangement. On the one hand, the Bureau believes that the public is increasingly concerned about the personal data contained in the Register; on the other hand, the Bureau should ensure a certain degree of transparency in the Register while enhancing such information, and therefore believes that it is an appropriate time to revise the ” Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622).

The new arrangement will be implemented in three phases

The implementation of the new search arrangements under the Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622) will be carried out in three stages. December 27, 2023, is the start date of the third phase. The specific details are as follows:

• Phase 1 (starting 23 August 2021)

The company may substitute the director’s correspondence address in its register for the usual residential address.

and making the partial identification numbers of directors and company secretaries available for public inspection instead of full numbers.

• Phase 2 (starting 24 October 2022)

In the Companies Register, the usual residential address and full identification number contained in the Director’s Index may be replaced by the correspondence address and part of the identification number for public inspection.

From the second stage, only “specified persons” can access the protected information contained in the document.

• Phase 3 (starts 27 December 2023)

The data subject may apply to the Companies Registry to have the above-mentioned protected data retracted and replaced by his mailing address and part of his identification number.

“Specified person” includes?

According to the Companies Registry, with reference to legal procedures and responsibilities, the bureau has compiled a list of relevant “specified persons” on the premise of ensuring the soundness of Hong Kong’s financial and commercial governance system with reference to issues such as anti-money laundering and balancing the difficulty of law enforcement.

The list of persons with access to protected data, “specified persons”, includes:

• the data subject;

• the party’s authorized;

• relevant company members;

Data access is required for the performance of statutory functions:

• public officials and public bodies;

• Lawyers practicing in law firms;

• Certified Public Accountants;

• Banking institutions authorized by the Banking Ordinance;

• Financial institutions and designated non-financial persons under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Ordinance.

The above information is for reference only. If you have any questions about the Companies Ordinance, the new search arrangement, we welcome your inquiries.

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