Companies House to make downloads free

FANS of private company data will be in their element – Companies House is to make all documents free that are downloaded through its website.

At present each document costs £1 but the charge will be lifted in a year’s time.

The Government said it was taking the step to improve corporate transparency, a goal it signed up to at a G8 summit last year.

It also said it wants to open up opportunities for entrepreneurs to “come up with innovative ways of using the information”.

A website called Duedil has already set out to open up private company data by offering a large amount, such as basic financial and shareholder information, for free, but it charges 80p for documents.

Duedil’s editor in chief Matthew Rock said the move presented his company with an opportunity.

“Once again it’s the UK leading the world in terms of transparency so we see it as really exciting. But really the story here is not about data being available, the most important thing is the context you put around data. Our business is about turning data into information and insight people can use.

“Announcements like this that can bring more data into the public realm bring visibility into the market that business information is a vital tool.”

He added: “It’s about adding clarity and context to what is currently a disordered mass of data. That’s where we think Duedil will prosper in the future.”

In the year to April the Government took £8.7m in fees from those accessing the Companies House website. It said the move would make the UK the first country to establish a “truly open register of business information”.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “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. Today’s commitments cement the UK’s position as a leader in the open data agenda.”