Unregistered business names

This is Information Sheet 200 (INFO 200). It explains when a business should register their name. It also includes information about dealing with unregistered businesses.

When must a business register its name?

The law requires that a party carrying on a business using a name must register that name, unless it is the party’s individual name, a registered company name or the full name of a partnership. Having an unregistered business name is a breach of the Business Names Registration Act 2011.

You may become concerned if you have contracted with a business for goods or services and then found out that the business is unregistered, or if you are a small business owner and you have become aware that another business is using an unregistered business name.

What you should do

If you are concerned about dealing with an unregistered business, there are a number of options available to you.

If you are concerned that a business you are dealing with might not be registered 

You can check whether the party you are dealing with is a registered business or company via the ASIC Connect website. If the business or company is registered, you can ask to see their registration certificate.

If you have purchased goods or non-financial services 

If you have purchased goods or non-financial services from a business you suspect may be unregistered, see Information Sheet 161 Disputes about goods and non-financial services (INFO 161).

If you have entered into a contract with someone to supply you with goods or services, and they have not provided their Australian Business Number (ABN) or business name 

You should seek legal advice to find out the process for making an application to a court for an order. If you are unsure of how to seek legal advice, contact the Law Society in your state or territory.

If you are concerned that a business you are dealing with does not have an ABN 

If you are concerned that a business does not have an ABN, and should have one, you should check the Australian Business Register to see whether they are registered. If you are concerned that a business is not paying tax or other entitlements, you may wish to contact the Australian Tax Office.

If you need more information 

You can get more information about small business operation from the Fair Trading offices in your state or territory.

ASIC and unregistered business names

Our aim is to get businesses to comply with their obligations. If we receive information that someone is operating under an unregistered business name, we may write to the business to remind them of their obligations to register the business name and, in some cases, we may take further regulatory action. Generally, we will only take action if we have concerns about other unlawful conduct, or when the business has a history of failing to meet their obligations under the law.

ASIC and Australian Business Numbers

ASIC does not administer ABNs and is not responsible for the registration of ABNs. A business must have an ABN or be in the process of applying for one with the Australian Business Register website before ASIC will register a business name. The Australian Tax Office has a wealth of information available to businesses and individuals about the requirements of starting a business.

Where can I get more information?

  • For information about ASIC’s role and the laws we administer
  • For information about business names, see What is a business name?
  • Download Regulatory Guide 235 Registering your business name (RG 235).
  • Download the following information:
    – Information Sheet 161 Disputes about goods and non-financial services (INFO 161)
    – Information Sheet 187 Disputes about similar business names (INFO 187), and
    – Information Sheet 201 Failure to display a business name (INFO 201).

Information sheets provide concise guidance on a specific process or compliance issue or an overview of detailed guidance.

This information sheet was issued in April 2015.

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Last updated: 05/02/2015 12:00