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Home > Craft Topics > Regulations > Business Names

Business Names

The following information is for guidance only. For further information, please contact your local Trading Standards Service. 


The current position with the law that governs the use of business names allows the Secretary of State control over the name you choose for your business and regulates disclosure of business ownership - in other words, what and how you must tell others about the ownership of the business.

It must be noted that, whilst the Business Names Act of 1985 still currently applies to the above and the following, Schedule 16 of the Companies Act of 2006 contains provision to repeal the Business Names Act. It is expected that the Business Names Act will eventually be repealed in its entirety when Schedule 16 comes into force. This is currently expected to be October 2008, at which time (or earlier, if needed) further guidance will be provided.

The law currently applies to:

If you trade under your own name, e.g. John Smith trading as J Smith, you are not covered by the provisions of the Act, but if you add any words other than your initials or forenames, e.g. John Smith trading as Smith's Autos, you are covered.
If the Act applies to you (see above), you must comply with all the disclosure requirements. You will need to disclose (as appropriate):

You must display the information in a prominent position so that it can be read easily, in all the places where you carry out your business and where you deal with customers or suppliers.

When The Business Names Act of 1985 is repealed, and when Sections 1200 and 1206 of the Companies Act 2006 come into force, the requirements will apply only to individuals and partnerships. Again further guidance will be provided at that time

On 1st January 2007, new legislation - The Companies (Registrar, Languages and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2006 ( S.I. 2006 No.3429) - came into force, which amended the Companies Act 1985 and, amongst other things, applied new rules to business stationery.

A company must now state its name in legible lettering on the following business stationery, whether in hard copy, electronic or other form:

You will need to show, in legible lettering, on all business letters, order forms and any of the company's websites :

Whenever an email is used where its paper equivalent would be caught by the stationery requirements, the email would also be subject to the same requirements.

The same requirements are also applicable to Limited Liability Partnerships.

Please note

If the business has more than twenty partners, you need not put all the partners' names on your business documents. However, you must give the address of the principal place of business, and state that a full list of the partners' names and addresses can be inspected there. Please note that companies are required to display additional information on their business documentation.

Further details can be obtained by contacting Companies House either by telephone (0870 33 33 636) or by visiting the Companies House website.

Also applicable to any business that trades through advertisements, or online, are the provisions of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (as amended). These Regulations require a supplier to provide a prospective buyer with details about themselves.

Before a consumer concludes an online transaction, or responds to an advert, etc, the supplier must provide details of the postal address of their business, so that a consumer may address complaints in a durable written format.

The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 also require a business providing an information society service (which can be the marketing or selling of services to consumers and other businesses, online, by interactive T.V. or by phone texting) to provide the following information:

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