Madrid, 13 June 2022 We are urging civil society organisations, journalists and citizens across Europe to participate in the European Commission’s consultation on whether or not company registers should be open.

The consultation is open until Tuesday 21 June 2022 (midnight Brussels time).

What is this about? 

The consultation is on the Open Data Directive, adopted in 2019, which promised to open up company and company ownership data, including the names of the legal and beneficial owners. This information is currently available to all who have the means to pay for the data, with costs ranging up to €11 per record.

We are simply asking the Commission to require EU Member States to make this data available for free so that all have equal access to it.

Why is this a concern?

The Commission is now planning to open up company data, but with no names of legal owners or beneficial owners, clearly going back on what the European Parliament and the Council agreed in 2019 when they included “Companies and Company Ownership” in the list of high value datasets to be made public under the Open Data Directive.

In spite of this promise, the European Commission is now proposing – via a much-delayed “Implementing Regulation” – that only the most basic company information will have to be public in EU Member States. Absolutely no data on the company ownership or legal representatives will be published for free.

The Commission has given no clear explanation for why there is this backtracking, but we understand that there is resistance from some medium and larger businesses to have their full company structures transparent, and from some Member States which are more concerned with making money from selling data in their company registers than providing a trusted and transparent business environment.

This is counterproductive when open company registers have multiple benefits:

  • Decrease of corruption in public procurement, which costs the EU around €5 billion per year;
  • Making it easier to discover and deter money laundering, which, according to Europol, costs the EU almost €200 billion per year;
  • Business opportunities worth thousands of millions of euros (in the UK opening the company register created business opportunities for reusers worth an estimated €780 million);
  • Significantly reduced time and costs for Europe’s 24 million SMEs both in reporting and in checking ownership of other companies.

What are we calling for? 

Our message is simple: if the Commission truly wants to create a European Union that is hostile to money-laundering, corruption, organised crime, and tax evasion, it should act now and deliver on the promise of making company ownership information available as open data and accessible free of charge.

ACT NOW! What can you do? 

There are two ways you can support us, either:

  • PREFERRED: Support our call for open company ownership information by using this template to submit your own contribution to the Commission’s consultation (see how to submit below); or
  • Sign the online document and we will send a joint contribution from all the people across Europe who support this call for transparency.

Collectively we can call on the Commission to include in the scope of publication under the Implementing Regulation the names of company legal owners and beneficial owners, legal representatives, and directors.

How can you participate in the public consultation? 

You can submit your opinions via the Commission’s “have your say” webpage. To do so, follow the steps below:

1. Go to the Open Data – availability of public datasets section on the Commission’s “have your say” page and either log in or create an account so that you can submit feedback.

2. Scroll down to the “Draft act” section (with the 2022 dates), as shown below:

3. Click on “give feedback”. There you will see that you have a section called “My feedback» where you paste in the text provided and you can also upload a supporting document.