Companies House is making access to all of its digital data free of charge, as part of the government's open data agenda.
This aim is to ease access for the public and businesses who wish to research and scrutinise the ownership and activities of companies and the individuals linked to them.
Currently, Companies House customers are required to pay £1 per search when accessing data on a firm, such as accounts or latest appointments. In 2013 customers spent a total of £8.7m accessing company information held on the Companies House register.
Removing the charge is a significant step forward by the government to improve corporate transparency and represents a wider commitment to providing open data, said minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude. "Today's announcement underlines our commitment to ensuring that data of most value to citizens and businesses is released and is as widely accessible as possible," he said.
V3 reported a similar move by the Office for National Statistics in June, which removed the registration wall between web users and its data.
Underpinning these moves is the declaration made at last year's G8 summit that governments should take steps to cut wasteful bureaucracy and ensure information across both corporations and governments is made transparent.
By opening up access to such data the government hopes to encourage entrepreneurs to find innovative ways use the information and in turn help boost the UK economy.
Business secretary Vince Cable reinforced the government's agenda on open data. "The government firmly believes that the best way to maximise the value to the UK economy of the information which Companies House holds, is for it to be available as open data. By making its data freely available and free of charge, Companies House is making the UK a more transparent, efficient and effective place to do business," he said.
Back in April V3 reported that the government allocated £150,000 worth of funding for training public servants to have a better understanding of the opportunities presented by open data.
While digital access to registry data will be free of charge, one caveat still remains: a fee will be levied for customers who require Companies House to manually retrieve information.
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