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  • Report
  • 3rd Jul 2019

Increasing uptake of digital services at Companies House

A trial report by Companies House in collaboration with The Behavioural Insights Team

Key findings

  • More than 20% of UK businesses still use a fax machine. Check out new trial results designed to nudge businesses into the future.
  • 80% of UK companies file their accounts with Companies House digitally, but 20% continue to use the more costly paper method. We tried to improve digital uptake in our new trial.
  • A social norm message '8 out of 10 companies file online' resulted in a 2.4% reduction in the probability of filing their accounts late or not at all.

Companies House is the registry for all UK limited companies. There are more than four million companies on its register and 600,000 new companies incorporated each year. The register forms a valuable database of company information, providing insights into company performance across the UK economy.

Companies House manages over 30,000 customer transactions every day. It is essential that it can provide an efficient service and meet increasing demands on its resources. As part of its goal to reduce costs, save time and increase data integrity, Companies House has a strategic aim to become an entirely digital organisation. An important part of this goal is to have companies file their annual accounts electronically (e-filing) rather than by paper and post.

This report summarises a trial run with Companies House to encourage the remaining 21% of companies on the register to file their annual accounts electronically.

The trial tested three new versions of a reminder letter sent 35 to 42 days before a company’s annual accounts are due. The new letters were simpler than the original reminder letter and increased the salience of the request to e-file. In addition, each of the three new letters included a headline message informed by behavioural insights:

  • Letter A – Static social norm: “8 out of 10 companies file online”
  • Letter B – Dynamic social norm: “Over the past 5 years, online filing has increased from 50% to 80%. Consider filing online this year.”
  • Letter C – Messenger effect: “I file my accounts online every year. It was quick and easy. I would recommend it for everyone. Louise – company director”

We ran a randomised controlled trial to understand the impact of each letter on companies due to file between September and December 2018. A total of 481,888 companies received one of the letters during the trial. We tested the impact of the letters on each company’s filing behaviour related to their:

  • Filing method: whether they e-filed or filed by paper
  • Compliance: whether the company filed on time.

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