Law guide: Business start-up

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What you need to disclose about your business

What you need to disclose about your business

Business names

If you carry on a business under a business name, you will need to comply with the rules concerning the disclosure of business names. A business name can be any name, except for your surname with the addition of your forename or initial. You can of course decide simply to be a sole trader without using a business name and use your own name instead.

The name you choose should not be offensive, or contain words which imply you are a company or LLP. Any words which may imply you are connected or in some way approved by a government body, e.g. 'British', 'Accredited', will require prior approval before you can use them. You should also be aware that if you choose a name the same or very similar to an existing business you could face legal action from the existing business for 'passing off'.

Information that you must disclose

You must disclose your name and an address in the UK, where documents may be sent to you and notices given to you.

You must display this information on all:

  • Business letters
  • Written orders for goods or services to be supplied to your business
  • Invoices and receipts issued in the course of your business, and
  • Business-related written demands for the payment of debts

Disclosure at business premises

At the place where you carry on business you must also display a notice showing your name and the address where documents can be sent. This notice must be displayed in a prominent position where it can easily be read by customers and suppliers.

Consequences of non-disclosure

Failure to comply with these disclosure requirements is a criminal offence that can be punished by a fine. You could also be barred from making a claim if it is based on a contract you made with anyone who suffered financial loss as a result of you not adequately disclosing details of your name.

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