Electronic delivery of services
11. As already noted, the development of technology
has been a cause for concern. It has not only been the new IT
system (CHIPS) which has created problems for Companies House
but also the consequences of moving from an entirely paper based
register to an electronic one.
12. The number of documents which can now be accepted
electronically by Companies House has risen from 67% in 2004/05,
to 80% in 2007/08. In addition more companies are using the service
so that in 2004/05 0.6 million documents were filed electronically
but in 2007/08 this figure reached 3.1 million.
However 51% of documents are still filed on paper
and Companies House currently receives over three-quarters of
a tonne of post every day.
Companies House's 2006/07 Annual Report said:
we have not lost sight of our need to provide
services to all our customers [
] we still have customers
who wish to continue sending us paper documents. We are very pleased
that we have been able to maintain high levels of performance
across all our services.
Companies House has informed us that the "cost
differential between electronic and paper services will continue
to grow" and
that "the last Fees Regulations in 2004 took account of the
difference in cost in processing electronic and paper documents.
This was reflected for example in the fee of £15 for an electronic
incorporation instead of £20 for one filed on paper, and
in the fee of £15 when filing an annual return, as opposed
to £30 when filed on paper".
13. Papers filed electronically and the other files
scanned into the system can be downloaded and viewed through the
Companies House website; users can log on to the Companies Register
from their personal computers as opposed to travelling to Companies
House to access information. The electronic services currently
receive more that 40 million hits per month.
As the register has become more widely accessible there
is a risk that many users do not realise the unauthenticated status
of the information; there are demands on Companies House to validate
the data. Just as the information is more accessible to bona
fide users of the website it is also more accessible to fraudstersas
the Information Commissioner said:
The abuse of personal information is not in itself
a product of the computer and internet age. Paper records have
historically provided an effective means for abuse [
difference lies in the scale, speed of access and sharing, and
search efficiency which modern technology brings. Unless they
are governed well, misuses of computerised datasets can threaten
or cause harm to greater numbers of people in ever shorter periods
of time, whether by accident or design.
We discuss these subjects in more detail later in
the report but first we examine the new Companies House computer
system and the effects of its delay on the implementation of the
Companies Act 2006.