Michelle HammondFollow on twitter www.startupsmart.com.au
Home-based businesses raise privacy concerns about new national names register
The National Business Name Register only began in late May but is already causing headaches for home-based businesses, which are required to include a physical address on the register.
The register, administered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, began on May 28.
It replaces the previous state and territory services so that businesses only need to register their name with a single national register.
According to ASIC, the service is experiencing high demand, with more than 32,000 applications for new business names in the first seven weeks.
Uptake for the service continues to grow, with an average of 900 applications received every business day for the past two weeks.
But Lyn Prowse-Bishop, owner of Executive Stress Office Support, told SmartCompany the personal address details of business owners are appearing on the ASIC website.
“Home-based businesses are not supposed to put our home addresses to be publicly available because of the security issues, so most use a PO box,” she said.
“Under the ASIC system, it says on the site that a physical or street address is needed and if you use your home address for service of documents, it will be displayed on the register.”
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says the council has received complaints from business owners about the name register.
Strong says COSBOA has been in contact with ASIC to try to resolve concerns.
According to Strong, the requirement for home-based businesses to include their personal address on the register is particularly concerning.
“That was something ASIC didn’t foresee and they have to address that. So we have told them about it as that is a concern for privacy, especially for women working from home,” he says.
Home-based businesses can address privacy concerns by using their accountant’s address but this will incur a fee, thus increasing the cost of starting up a business.
“There must be at least one physical address on the business name register,” an ASIC spokesperson says.
“If people are operating a business from home, I guess that is one of the issues that arise from operating in that way.”
“A PO box is not sufficient. It’s a balance between the privacy of the business owner and ensuring the people they are dealing with are able to access them and have confidence in the way they are operating.”
Victorian Small Business Minister Louise Asher says the Victorian Government has written to the ASIC chairman expressing concern about the policy: “We have asked for this situation to be rectified."
It’s important to note business owners don’t need to register a business name if they trade under their own name.
“You can carry on business throughout Australia using your registered business name,” ASIC says on its website.
“[However,] a business name gives no trading rights over a name – only a trademark can give that type of protection.”