Usually, we focus on the online world. But many clients have contacted us recently about being bombarded with official-looking invoices for their Australian business name registration (which is different from their domain name registration).
These invoices arrive in envelopes that appear to be from official government bodies with return addresses like the Law Courts.
The invoice content looks just like a regular business invoice, with corporate-looking logos and design. (And yes, we have been saving ours for a rogues gallery).
As you read through the invoices, there are threats that if you don’t renew through that company you will lose your business name, domain name or email address, and your competitors will then take your business name over.
There may be a teensy tiny note at the bottom or somewhere easy to overlook, stating that the invoice is not from ASIC but from a private service provider.
If you are not paying attention, you are likely to pay the invoice without a second thought and unwittingly grant control of your business name to a private service provider rather than directly through ASIC.
While technically legal under the legislation, these private service providers generally charge you triple what you would pay if you renewed your business name yourself online. Most do not provide any other genuine service other than saving you two minutes of your time on the ASIC website.
What you give up in return for paying the inflated fee is the loss of direct contact from ASIC to you about your business name: All communication from ASIC will now go to the private service provider.
- The government body that covers business registrations and renewals is ASIC – the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (asic.gov.au)
- The current ASIC fees for renewing your business name are $37 for one year and $88 for three years. (Most private providers charge $99 and $199 for the same thing).
- You can renew your business name online yourself at the asic.gov.au website.
- There are rules about what a Private Service Provider can and can’t do. Many skate close to the wind with their compliance.
What if You Have Been Stung?
If you have already been caught by a Private Service Provider, request to have your contact information changed back to your details, cancel your auto-deductions and take control back over your business name registration with ASIC.
If you are not sure if you have been caught, or if ever you are in doubt of anything to do with your business registration, discuss it with your accountant or ASIC. Your business name is too vital to be handed willy-nilly to some random who stuffed your letterbox with subtle threats.
My advice to all my clients is to shred every letter you get from a private service provider about your business name renewal. Treat it exactly as you would with any other email and telemarketing spam.
Read Emails you can happily delete for more information about what to do about spam emails.
Go directly to ASIC to renew your business name and do it yourself online. It is faster, easier, and cheaper, and you retain control of this critical piece of information about your business.