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2.4 Registry services and outcomes

To realise our vision of a fair, strong and efficient financial system for all Australians, we aim to provide efficient and accessible business registers that make it easier to do business.

Our performance reporting in 2019–20 was guided by ASIC’s Corporate Plan 2019–23: Focus 2019–20, which set out our objectives and targets related to providing efficient registry services, including the registers of companies and business names, as well as a range of professional registers.

ASIC’s registers

The ASIC registry is a critical part of Australia’s economic infrastructure. The work we do ensures that the information on our registers is accurate, up to date and available to those using the information, enabling business and consumer stakeholders to make informed decisions. ASIC administers registers of companies and business names, as well as a range of professional and other registers.

We are focused on making it easier for businesses to engage with ASIC and comply with the law, to enhance commercial certainty. We aim to provide services that are online and accessible to all Australians. We work to continuously improve our services to support efficient registration.

Until 30 June 2020, the cost of registration as an Australian company was $495. The cost of registering a business name was $36 for one year and $85 for three years.

Table 2.4.1: ASIC’s registers




Total companies registered



New companies registered



Total business names registered



New business names registered



Calls and online inquiries responded to by Customer Contact Centre



Registry lodgements



Percentage of registry lodgements online



Number of searches of ASIC registers16



16 We improved the accuracy of the methodology used to report on the number of public searches in 2019–20 and we now include a wider range of register searches.

Performance overview

ASIC received almost three million lodgements in the 2019–20 financial year, with over 90% processed online without manual intervention. The most common lodgement was ‘change to company details’ (Form 484), with 968,000 received.

We also answered 631,000 inquiries through our Customer Contact Centre.

Business registration

This year, ASIC facilitated the registration of 610,000 new businesses, comprising 222,000 companies and 388,000 business names.

Throughout 2019–20, ASIC’s registry promoted the use of the Australian Government Business Registration Service, launched in June 2018 and available at www.business.gov.au. In total, 99.9% of applications to register a company or business name were made online.

This service makes it easier to start a business by providing a single online channel for registration of companies, business names, Australian Business Numbers and other tax registrations.

Register integrity

To keep our registers accurate and up to date, ASIC issues millions of notices to regulated populations each year. In 2019–20, we issued 2.6 million company annual statements and 749,000 business name renewal notices.

Through a range of compliance programs, ASIC deregistered 58,000 companies for non-payment of review fees and 302,000 business names for expired registration or because the entity ceased to exist.

Increased use of online channels

Over 93% of the almost three million lodgements received by ASIC were submitted online, while the volume of lodgements submitted by mail decreased by 7%.

Calls to ASIC’s Customer Contact Centre decreased by 9%, while inquiries submitted through our website increased by 3%.

Accessing registry information

Our registers experienced record levels of access in 2019–20, with over 243.7 million searches of public information. We improved the accuracy of the methodology used to report the number of public searches this year and now include a wider range of register searches.

There are 12 registry datasets available at www.data.gov.au. These datasets have been viewed over 74,000 times this year, an increase of 1%.

Analysis of key outcomes

Key outcomes achieved by ASIC’s registry in 2019–20 are set out below.

Modernising business registers

Over the course of the year, ASIC continued to work with Treasury and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to develop proposals for the modernisation of Australian business registers, including 31 in-scope ASIC registers and the Australian Business Register.

In December 2019, the Government announced its commitment to progress the registry modernisation program of work. Registry modernisation will make it easier and faster for businesses to interact with the Government, creating a single, accessible and trusted source of business data. It will introduce a Director Identification Number regime and transfer existing business registers to a modernised platform operated by the ATO.

The Government commitment included funding to stabilise the registry’s current technology to ensure continuity for businesses until modernisation occurs.

In June 2020, the legislative package to enable the modernisation of business registers passed both Houses of Parliament.

Journalist search fee exemption

On 30 July 2018, the Government announced it would extend the fee exemption available for certain registry searches, specified in the Corporations (Fees) Regulations 2001, to all journalists for all searches from 1 July 2019.

The exemption from these fees facilitates free access to important information about companies and financial services providers.

Journalists qualify for the exemption where they are seeking access to the information as part of their professional work. Media agencies and individual journalists receive a concession when conducting a search through a commercial ASIC information broker or when requesting a search directly from ASIC.

On 1 July 2019, ASIC established a dedicated ‘journalist search portal’ where approved journalists can obtain some ASIC registry information for free. In December 2019, the service was expanded to cater for current and historical company information, as well as copies of documents that companies have lodged with ASIC.

As at June 2020, there are over 200 journalists registered to use the service. Details for registration are available from the ASIC website.

Financial Advisers Register

In 2019–20, ASIC supported financial advice sector reforms by enhancing the Financial Advisers Register to enable licensees to comply with their legislative obligations. As part of the reforms, advisers must:

  • attain educational qualifications that are approved by the Financial Advisers Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA)
  • pass an exam set by FASEA
  • engage in continuing professional development each year and their AFS licensees must advise ASIC if the adviser fails to meet the requirement.

Advisers new to the industry are ‘provisional financial advisers’ and must complete a year of work and training before they can become a financial adviser.

These changes aim to improve the professionalism of Australia’s financial advice industry and help consumers make informed decisions in choosing their adviser.

In November 2019, we updated the Financial Advisers Register to incorporate the enhanced requirements. All financial adviser information is available free of charge on this register at www.moneysmart.gov.au.

International collaboration

Executive Director Registry, Rosanne Bell, continued as President of the Corporate Registers Forum (CRF). The CRF is an association of corporate registries from more than 60 jurisdictions. Its aim is to give members the opportunity to review the latest developments in corporate business registers internationally and exchange experiences and information on the present and future operation of corporate business registration systems.

ASIC’s involvement with the CRF is important in allowing us to share ideas and best practices and to discuss emerging registry issues.

Registered Agent conduct

An ASIC Registered Agent may be authorised to act on behalf of companies transacting with ASIC registers. This year, approximately 24,000 Registered Agents submitted over 58% of the total 2.2 million lodgements to ASIC’s companies registers.

Registered Agents must comply with ASIC’s Terms and Conditions, introduced in 2018. The Terms and Conditions describe rights and responsibilities, including:

  • eligibility criteria to be a Registered Agent
  • grounds on which ASIC may cancel Registered Agent status
  • requirements for lodging documents and lodging online
  • expectations of Registered Agents lodging on behalf of a company.

This year, our compliance programs targeted Registered Agents not complying with ASIC’s Terms and Conditions, in particular failing to retrieve company annual statements, and Registered Agents operating deregistered companies.

We also considered 61 reports of Registered Agent misconduct this financial year. Of these reports, we cancelled 15 agent registrations and issued warnings to 29.

Digital service provider terms and conditions

A digital service provider is a person or organisation who allows data to be sent to and from ASIC to submit transactions and request information searches of the ASIC registers.

In December 2019, we published Digital Service Provider Terms and Conditions on the ASIC website, defining eligibility criteria and the obligations to be fulfilled by ASIC digital service providers.

These measures strengthen ASIC’s registry services delivery model by defining the minimum standards and expectations required of our business partners. By better communicating the requirements to be a registry business partner, strengthening our compliance work, and acting on conduct that generates complaints, we can better inform new and current business partners about their obligations and further promote the integrity of our registers.

Disaster recovery exercise – ASIC registry online services

In December 2019, as part of our work to stabilise the technology underpinning ASIC’s registry, we performed a complete disaster recovery exercise covering all registry systems. We simulated failure of our primary data centre in Homebush by shutting down all registry systems, including network links.

The exercise allowed us to practise planned business continuity measures, validate overall system resilience, and identify areas for improvement. It confirmed ASIC’s preparedness for any potential incidents that may impact registry systems in the future.

Registry compliance programs

ASIC conducts a number of compliance programs to enhance and maintain the integrity of our registers, with specific focus on the companies register.

This year, we combined data from several ASIC teams to identify 1,600 additional companies that should be lodging financial reports, more than double the number of entities investigated compared to previous years.

Key statistics from our compliance programs include:

  • 53,265 companies deregistered due to non-payment of fees
  • 2,245 large proprietary companies and unlisted public companies notified to lodge financial reports
  • 461 companies referred for investigation for failure to lodge financial statements
  • 283,614 business names cancelled due to expired registrations.

Natural disaster relief

ASIC is committed to supporting people impacted by natural disasters. This year, we supported victims of the bushfires that affected many communities and businesses across Australia. We acknowledge that circumstances such as natural disasters may make it difficult for businesses to pay fees or meet their lodgement obligations.

Customers experiencing difficulties are encouraged to contact us to discuss payment options, apply for a payment plan, or apply for a fee waiver.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic presented significant challenges for businesses across Australia. During the pandemic, all ASIC registry services continued without disruption. Our Customer Contact Centre remained open for customer inquiries, while online services continued to facilitate lodgement of documents and searches of registers.

To support Government priorities, space in our Traralgon office was provided to Services Australia to accommodate staff providing vital services to the public.