If you want to check the credentials of a company then the first port of call has to be the official company register of the country in which the company is based. Many of the registers are on the web and allow you to search and view some of the information free of charge. (See my own list at http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/registers.htm. Also Company registration around the world and Worldwide registries). This approach does not always yield results and often proves to be more difficult than anticipated. It assumes that the company or organisation is required or has volunteered to register, which is not always the case. For example, in the UK, sole traders do not have to register and therefore will not be found at Companies House. Then there is the problem of navigating a company registry web site that may be in a language other than your own. Even if you manage to work your way through the navigation and search options you will usually find that the data is in the local language. And this all assumes that you know where the company is based; if you don’t you have to trawl through possible registries one by one.
There are many services that provide you with easy search options and access to translated official company information but these can be expensive, and there are occasions when you need to see the original registration documents and filings. One partial solution for Europe is the European Business Register (http://www.ebr.org/). This is a network of many of the European company registers offering a “one-stop-shop” for company information. Access to the register is via “partners” – you can identify the partner for your country at http://www.ebr.org/partners.htm. For the UK and Ireland the partner is the Global Business Register (http://www.globalbusinessregister.co.uk/) or GBRDirect.
Currently GBRDirect connects to the national corporate registries in:
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,Ireland, Jersey, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
In order to use GBRDirect you first have to register and also “top-up” your account using a debit or credit card. All documents are priced and so is a successful search, which costs £1.50. You are not charged for a list of results but as soon as you click on an entry in the list your search is deemed to be successful and you are charged for it. Once on the ‘company’ screen, available documents and their prices are listed.
Prices vary depending on the type of document you wish to view and the country. A price list and the type of documents available for each country can be found at http://www.gbrdirect.co.uk/GBRDirect%20Pricelist.pdf
As well as a company search you can also carry out a search for company officials in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the UK.
On the plus side this service enables you to quickly search many of the European registers through a single interface. On the down side you still have to know the country in which the company is based and the documents will be in the local language. You may also end up paying for information that is available free of charge direct from the national registry and the European Business Register seems to go down with alarming regularity. About half of my searches failed because “The EBR Service is not available at the moment” and I am finding the down time increasingly frustrating. When it works GBRDirect is an excellent way of searching the EBR but you still need to know the location of the individual country registries in case the service is down and you need documents urgently.