The primary sources for business identity verification in Germany are the Commercial Registers of the local courts that are conveniently available online. All businesses with a turnover above a certain threshold are required to keep accounts and records as well as register. Limited liability and stock companies are also recorded, as the Commercial Register also contains the Register of Companies. The only exceptions to this are agricultural businesses and the liberal professions.
The Commercial Register contains the following data:
- official name and official address of the company
- corporate objects
- legal form
- proprietor/s or shareholder/s
- information regarding legal representation
- shareholdings and annual financial statements of corporations
- opening of insolvency procedures in the event of insolvency
The entries are notarized and filed by a notary public at the Commercial Register of the competent municipal court (Amtsgericht). These municipal courts also maintain the registers for professional partnerships (Partnerschaftsgesellschaft) and cooperatives (eingetragene Genossenschaft - e.G.). Entries can be inspected by anyone for a small fee. The entries are also available free of charge via the official website of the Commercial Register or through the online Company Register.
Furthermore, the local Commercial Trades Offices (Gewerbeämter) maintain Registers of Commercial Trades (Gewerberegister) containing basic information of all local businesses. Although these registers are technically not open to the general public, the local Commercial Trade Offices may answer formal requests regarding the name, address and description of the object of a business enterprise. Since every permanent commercial undertaking in Germany has to register with its local Commercial Trades Office, the Registers of Commercial Trades contain all business activities except the liberal professions.
In addition, many industry associations or professional chambers offer a member database that may be browsed to validate the information provided on a business. The official online-registers of the regulated liberal occupations may be helpful to check whether a provider is entitled to do business.