Companies House is considering amending its current policy of retaining the records of dissolved businesses for 20 years post dissolution following the decision by the European Court of Justice in 2014 to create the "right to be forgotten".
The question is whether those connected to businesses have a right to be forgotten, or should the public have a right to remember them?
This debate will linger on and it is a sensitive issue. On one hand, the public should know (for as long as possible) of unscrupulous directors and rogue tradesmen as well as genuine business directors whose companies were dissolved because of incompetent business decisions etc. On the other hand, a period of 20 years does seem excessive. It should also be noted that the dissolution of a company is often (and quite unecessarily) associated with a "failed" business. The general idea is that businesses dissolve because they have failed but there may be sound business reasons behind dissolving a company that are not linked to a lack of profitability or poor management (i.e. failure).
Moreover, even in the event of failure, 20 years can be excessive. For example, think of a young entrepreneur at the age of 25 who was bold, brave and daring but lacked the know-how. His/her business did well but may have eventually crumbled. Over time, that same person will have learnt from their experiences, honed their skills and enhanced their business acumen. Despite this, the fact of the dissolution of his/her earlier business(es) will loom over them until the age of 45.
In any event, the fact that Companies House is reviewing this issue and its current policy is to be welcomed irrespective of the two different sides in this debate. Personally, my view is that the current policy should stay for the purpose of protecting the public but Companies House should, on payment of an application fee, accept applications (on prescribed form, written representations and evidence) from those such as my hypothetical 25 year old.