One year on: The National Business Names Register is still attracting criticism

It’s been a year since the federal government introduced the National Business Names Register and more than 260,000 new business names have been recorded as a result, but the federal opposition still wants to see major reform.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said in a statement today the register, which was created by the federal government to unify different state-based systems, has registered 260,000 new names and recorded 14 million name searches.

Nearly 500,000 business name renewals have also been issued.

But Coalition small business spokesman Bruce Billson told SmartCompany the register, while a good idea, has been “poorly implemented”.

“For many people, they have spent enormous amounts of time wading through complex arrangements, or hanging on the end of a phone call waiting for assistance,” he says.

“We’ve heard businesses complaining about the way the system has been implemented, and describing it as completely botched, pointing to problems with business sales and transfers.”

Such criticisms are timely, given the government has granted the register an extra $7.8 million as part of the 2013-14 federal budget.

Billson says he’s also heard stories of confidential business details accidentally being made available.

“There is clearly a need for some system refinement and changes.”

ASIC acknowledges in its statement the registry has encountered problems, saying it has faced the “largest challenge” of moving small businesses from a paper-based service to digital.

Commissioner Greg Tanzer said there have certainly been “frustrations” for some using the new tech.

“During the year we have heard the feedback and worked hard to enhance our systems, and also to offer alternatives to encourage our customers online.”

“We have increased the number of staff working in our client contact centre in order to better help our customers, and we are grateful to receive increased funding over the next two financial years to help us continue to improve this valuable service.”

The names register has encountered its share of problems. Last year, businesses complained registration requirements were a privacy concern, while others noted the 28-day lag between applying for a name and actually receiving it.

The government has provided $7.8 million for the register over the next year as part of the 2013-14 federal budget. In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Bernie Ripoll said earlier this month it hopes the extra money will ensure a quicker line of contact between the public and ASIC.

“This funding will improve ASIC’s client contact centre capabilities and allow ASIC to improve the quality of service that it provides.”

The money will partly come from raising the costs for registering a business name.

But Billson says more needs to be done.

“People relying on this system deserve much better than the way it has been operating.”



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