Critics used to complain that Germany was a third world country as far as disclosure and transparency was concerned. In terms of disclosure and compliance Germany had such a bad record that the European Commission took it to court twice to force it to comply with the EU’s fourth directive on disclosure of financial statements.
The situation has now changed completely due do the introduction of a new law in 2007 concerning Electronic Commercial and Company Registers. With the new law comes a strict enforcement regime. The register is managed by the German Official Gazette. With this new foundation for business information Germany is experiencing a new wave of disclosure, which surprisingly has won wide acceptance in previously secretive Germany. The new electronic gazette is being accessed up to 82,000 times per day providing a clear indication of the scale of the demand. The new electronic registers have not only become an important resource for the credit community, but also for business information providers who are using the data to create new products thus adding value to raw data.
The German Official Gazette, which is the official conduit for register data, has entered the commercial b2b turf by creating a new service called “firmextra.de” which contains four service modules:
- Module ‘Company Profile’ contains 1,2 million company profiles with key register information, company size, management etc.
- Module ‘Company Radar’ provides a type of monitoring service with alerts on key registration changes and or changes in the company profile
- Module ‘Benchmarks’ contains key ratios which are extracted from public financial statements
- Module ‘Knowledge’ contains basic company information obtained from news media
Monitoring is limited to 100 companies. Users are able to determine the size of a particular benchmark group. A user can also determine which company has checked its profile and who is monitoring its profile. The cost of the service is Euro 90.00 per annum (regardless of number of companies accessed). Subscription required.
Hoppenstedt ‘Firmendatenbank.de’ (Companydatabase.de) contains 300,000 company profiles with significant depth of company and financial information. The database is comprised of over a million data sets providing information on management down to the second management tier, and shareholdings in affiliated companies. Firmendatenbank.de has a benchmark tool which allows the evaluation of a business in comparison to its peer group. Firmendatenbank.de offers a number of subscription models: “Prepaid” subscription Euro 100.00 for up to 100 profiles. “Basic version” annual subscription Euro 1,675.00 per 50 units. “Premium” annual subscription of Euro 2,175 per 1,000 units. Hoppenstedt is owned by BISNODE, Sweden.
‘Firmenwissen’ (Company Knowledge) is a service provided by BIIA member Creditreform supplying company profiles based on 2.13 million registered companies. Profiles contain basic register data, information on company size, activity and management as well as key information on revenue development and capital structure. The ‘Firmenwissen’ database contains financial statements on 900,000 companies from Germany and Austria. Creditreform clients are able to add credit related data to particular company profiles. A monitoring service is available up to 30 days. ‘Firmenwissen.de’ is available on a Pay-per-Document basis: “Shop” – Euro 1.00 per address; Euro 9.00 per profile; Euro 35.00 per financial statement. “Premium” monthly base subscription of Euro 4.90 or annual Euro 49.00, plus Euro 0.80 per address; Euro 8.90 per profile; Euro 29.50 per financial statement. Creditreform subscription members (customers) Euro 0.80 per address; Euro 8.50 per profile; Euro 27.50 per financial statement.
Mrs. Ruth Goebel, the author of the Password Report 04/2010 has summarized these developments as follows: “Firmextra.de” is based on ‘raw’ register data. Data comes from legal filings and is not verified with the exception of audited financial statements. In some instances some of the benchmark groups are still too small to make a meaningful comparison. Since the German electronic register only exist since 2007 critical mass in terms of historical data has not yet been reached.
“Firmendatenbank.de” is unquestionably a top of the line business information service because of the immense depth in data and its qualitative track record.
“Firmenwilssen.de” is one of the largest company profile databases in Europe and very useful for small companies or occasional users of business information. Frequent ‘Popup’ ads however are a distracting element.
General observation concerning the three key services: Users would prefer to have a date indicator concerning the freshness of data (last updating of a record). Users would also like to see a feedback mechanism to report errors, incomplete data or outdated information. Immediate correction of data should become the norm, including notification to customers who have previously purchased a particular profile. “Firmendatenbank.de” has incorporated some of these features in its service.