What are the three stages of the new search arrangement?
Some company information is available to the public through searches. However, due to the increasing emphasis on personal data in recent years, the Companies Registry has issued new search arrangements from mid 2021, which will eventually be completed by the end of 2023. What are the changes? This article will explain each of them.
What are the new search arrangements for the Companies Register?
Under the latest Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622), the search arrangements will be updated in three phases from 23 August 2021 to 27 December 2023. Under the new arrangements, some company information will still be available for public inspection, and the register of companies will replace the usual residential address with the correspondence address of the directors. The full identification numbers will be replaced by partial identification numbers of directors, company secretaries and other relevant persons.
At Stage 3, companies may choose to close the usual residential address and full identification number (except the first part) contained in the register they keep to public inspection.
Why is there a new search arrangement?
The Companies Registry explained that the new search arrangement was introduced mainly to enhance the protection of certain “sensitive” personal data. At the same time, the new arrangement still allows for continued public access to the Companies Register under the Companies Ordinance and helps to maintain its transparency and validity.
The new search arrangements will be implemented in phases to tie in with the relevant refurbishment programme, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, in order to improve the Integrated Companies Registry Information System at both systemic and operational levels. By then, the system will have the capacity to cope with the full implementation of the new search arrangements.
The arrangements will be implemented in three phases, with details of the implementation of each phase as follows.
With effect from 23 August 2021, all locally incorporated companies will be allowed to have their directors’ correspondence addresses on the register in place of their usual residential addresses, and partial identification numbers of directors and company secretaries in place of full numbers for public inspection.
With effect from 24 October 2022, the usual residential addresses and full identification numbers of directors as set out in the Index of Directors in the Companies Register (“Protected Data”) will be replaced by correspondence addresses and partial identification numbers for public inspection.
All Protected Data contained in documents registered with the Companies Registry from this stage onwards will no longer be made available for public inspection. However, “specified persons” may request access to the protected data of directors, etc.
With effect from 27 December 2023, a data subject on the Register may apply to the Companies Registry to request that the registered protected data no longer be made available for public inspection by replacing it with his correspondence address and part of his identification number. Similarly, “specified persons” may request access to withheld information of directors, etc.
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