18 March, 2019
On the 28 February 2019 the Board of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published changes affecting the way individuals access information held on the Mutuals Register. The changes, set out in the Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 13) Instrument 2019/10, remove the current charges for inspecting the Mutuals Register,
The FCA acts as registrar for bodies registered with the FCA, covering over 9,000 building societies, credit unions, friendly societies and registered societies (including co-operative societies and community benefit societies). Previously, anyone wishing to access documentation held about such an organisation on the Mutuals Register would have to pay £12 for electronic copies of a society file, £27 for the first 20 sheets of a paper copy (plus 60p per page thereafter, plus £5 post and packaging) or £26.50 to view the file on site at the FCA.
The information held by the FCA includes:
These documents and types of information are similar to those held by Companies House about private/public companies and limited liability partnerships, although in contrast to the Mutuals Register these can searched for and accessed for free.
After recent public consultation, the FCA has found that charging for accessing information could be prohibitive and potentially restricts the aim of achieving public transparency and accountability. The current charges, described above, will no longer be applied from 1 April 2019, with the exception of any personal on-site visits to the FCA which will now be charged at £75 per hour.
Community Benefit Societies and other FCA Mutuals registered entities should be aware that this will increase the exposure of their own documents held on the register. From 1 April 2019 anyone, from members of the public to investigative journalists, will be able to view a member organisation's documentation and information without the hurdle of a financial charge.
Forbes Solicitors regularly advises Community Benefit Societies, in particular registered providers of social housing, and other entities registered with the FCA on a range of governance, secretarial and regulatory matters. We have extensive experience in the interpretation and application of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, including conversions, amalgamations and transfers of engagements between societies.