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September 2nd 2013 / BY: Wisteria

What implications can Sensitive Words have when choosing my Company Name?

Companies House, the Registrar of Companies in the UK, has a list of “sensitive words” which are protected from being freely used within a company name. It is therefore important to understand the implications that choosing these words can have when picking a name for your company. The logic behind sensitive words is that if used inappropriately they may convey the wrong impression about your business and consequently either mislead members of the public or cause confusion or offence. 

If you wish to use a word that Companies House deems as sensitive, you must provide appropriate supporting documentation, alongside your company incorporation or change of name application. This supporting documentation confirms that you are permitted to use the sensitive word in question and is usually provided by the secretary of state or a relevant body. As a result of this, opting to include a sensitive word in your company name can substantially delay your company registration.

Words can be sensitive in three main ways as outlined in Annex A, B and C of the Companies Act 2006. These are:

  • By having a connection with the Government or an official public body: these words require the approval of the government department, local or public authority or relevant body. Examples of such words include: Association, Chartered, England, European, and Government
  • By implying a certain status: these words require proof via letter or email of non-objection from the relevant body. Examples of such words include: crime squad, education, GB, HMRC and UK
  • Using these words may be considered a criminal offence: these words require confirmation from the relevant body that you are authorised to use this title. Examples of such words include: pharmacy, dentist, Olympic, solicitor and veterinary

Popular sensitive words include international, group and holdings, and with such words directors are required to write to Companies House, confirming that their business complies with the requirements to use them. If an individual fails to provide the required documentation to Companies House, it is highly likely that the company formation or change of name application will be rejected, as Companies House will refuse to register the name in question.

Companies House displays a long list of sensitive words on their website, which is constantly changing. It is therefore essential to thoroughly check that your company name is not breaching any of this ever-changing legislation prior to submitting a company formation application or change of company name. If you require any assistance with regards to the use of sensitive words, please feel free to contact us.