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How to check the legitimacy of a company

It’s important to do your research before investing any money in a business. Fortunately, there are a number of online tools to help you check business registration and find out if a company is legitimate. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission database is one example. 

What is the Australian Securities and Investments Commission?

Shortened to ASIC, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission keeps track of Australia’s financial services and markets. It’s an independent body established by the Commonwealth Government’s ASIC Act in 2001. You’ll find ASIC service centres in all capital cities.

ASIC is responsible for regulating Australian companies, making it a good first port of call if you want to run a business name check. For example, you can check registered business names in ASIC’s database.

Here are a few more aspects of ASIC’s role:

  • Process and store company information

  • Manage financial systems and markets

  • Publish company names and details for the public

  • Enforce financial laws

  • Provide education to investors

  • Register auditors

  • Grant financial service licenses

Perhaps most importantly for those who want to check business registration, ASIC is responsible for registering companies. This government body maintains registers of information with details about financial services licensees, credit licensees, and companies, all publicly accessible.

What can an ASIC company search tell you?

The ASIC database is handy when you are thinking of taking out loans, purchasing products, or investing in any scheme. However, it’s important to first outline what these government registers can tell you and what their limitations are.

You can search for the following types of organisations:

  • Australian companies

  • Foreign companies

  • Associations

  • Managed investment schemes

  • Non-registered entities

  • Registered bodies

The information available will depend on the type of organisation, but could include details like:

  • Company name

  • Unique identification number with link to the Australian Business Register

  • Nature of the company

  • Registration date

  • Review date

  •  Location of registry office

  • Professional licences or registrations

For even more details including former names, past addresses, and previous directors, you can purchase an extract with historical information.

ASIC can tell you whether a company is licensed or not, but it can’t endorse any organisation or company. However, if a licence has been granted you can assume that the business has met minimum standards regarding compliance and training.

How to check business registration

Finding this information is quite simple using the ASIC Connect website. There are different registers available depending on the information you’re seeking. For example, you can click through to the ‘professional registers’ search to verify whether a finance manager is licensed.

To perform a business name check, use the website’s ‘organisation and business names’ search tool. Enter the business name to view current registration details. If the business is unregistered, you should approach it with an added layer of caution.

ASIC registers are also useful if you’re starting up a new business and want to find out if the name is taken. You can use the ‘check name availability’ tool to get started.

Information brokers

If you need additional information regarding whether or not a company is legitimate, ASIC Connect provides links to third-party information brokers like GlobalX and CITEC Confirm. These are approved companies with direct access to the ASIC registers, who may be able to compile more in-depth reports. Benefits of using an information broker include gaining access to information from a wider variety of government agencies, compiling them into a single report.

The bottom line

While the ASIC company search tools can let you know whether or not a business is registered, it can’t give any concrete advice. This is why it’s always important to do your own research about traders or businesses before making any financial decisions. In addition to searching the business names register, read online reviews and verify all contact details. This will help you best assess the company’s reputation.

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