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Businesses that are not registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ), are prohibited from advertising and will face prosecution involving a fine or imprisonment if they breach this law.
The provision is contained in the amendments to the Registration of Business Names Act that became effective on September 3, and stipulates that only businesses that are registered are permitted to advertise.
“This means that placing an advertisement in a newspaper, sending out something on a letter head, anybody in any way representing themselves in a name other than their true christian and surnames, are liable for prosecution if they are not duly registered,” Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the COJ, Shellie Leon told JIS News in an interview.
The amendment to the legislation will have implications for the advertising industry as advertising agencies will need to adjust to the new provision. To assist with this adjustment, the Deputy CEO informed that the COJ has begun disseminating material on details of the Act to advertising agencies. “When persons go to them to advertise and are not registered, they (advertising agencies) can tell persons of the requirements and give them the necessary tools to go and register,” Miss Leon said.
Providing more details about the Registration of Business Names Act and its recent amendments, Miss Leon said that the Act governs the registration of sole proprietorships, partnerships and now corporations trading in another name.
“This legislation is ideally suited for small business proprietors who trade in a limited scope on a small scale or persons not engaged in activities which by their very nature, would give way to frequent litigation,” the Deputy CEO pointed out.
It is anticipated that the amendments will provide more protection for consumers and proprietors of registered businesses.
Outlining the areas covered by the amendments, Miss Leon pointed to the recognition of electronic registration, registration of business names by companies, obligation to register as a precondition of advertising, regulations for use of names for firms, traders, corporations and individuals and increases in penalties for contravening the Act.
In relation to electronic registration, Miss Leon noted that with the passing of the Electronic Transaction Act, methods of application would be expanded to include sending applications by electronic means together with the current methods of delivery in person, by post or by courier.
“Methods are now being worked out whereby there will be systems in place for persons who file businesses electronically,” she informed, adding that this amendment “takes into account modern day demands, getting things done faster and the need to decentralize the COJ.”
In terms of business names, the amended Act stipulates that the Registrar will not register a name if it is the same as that of a business already registered or which is the same as that of a company already registered under the Companies Act.
Additionally, the Deputy CEO advised that persons should double check to ensure that they were not infringing on any registered trademark or previously registered business.
The Act, she continued, also specifies that “if the Registrar upon three occasions ask a business to register or renew and that business did not go ahead and effect registration or renewal, the Registrar can, with the order from a Judge, have that business closed.”
“The legislation has also changed, in that previously if a corporation wanted to register under the Act, it had to join with a natural person.now under the amended law, the corporation is able to register on its own,” she informed.
On the matter of penalties, the amendments provide for persons to be fined up to $15,000 or imprisoned for up to three months for non-registration.
Miss Leon appealed to business persons and entities to formalize their operations, noting that “it provides greater protection, proof of ownership of your business and will enable you, in certain cases, to institute and continue certain lawsuits.”