February 8, 2018

A practical guide to looking up an Australian business online: ABN and ASIC lookup tips

A practical guide to looking up an Australian business online: ABN and ASIC lookup tips

Updated: 8 December 2019

Knowing how to look up an Australian business online is an important skill.

A company is a legal entity, it can sue and be sued, but you can't sue a business name. 

And if you sue someone personally but you really meant to sue a business, then you've wasted time and money in court. 

Before we go any further, here's a breakdown of the jargon: 

  • ABN = Australian Business Number;
  • ACN = Australian Company Number; and 
  • ASIC = Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

How to start researching a business

You can look for business details such as an ABN or ACN on items such as: 

  • invoice
  • quote
  • receipt 
  • letterhead; and 
  • catalogues

Now you may want to look up an Australian business online for a number of reasons, below are some examples.

Business contract

For a business contract to be legally binding,  you need to record the correct parties business details. 

So it's a good idea to look up a business and make sure that you are have their correct details.

Court case

 If you ever need to take legal action against a business, you need their correct details on your court paper work.

Researching a business partner

Understanding if your business partners has a registered Australian business is important before you do business with them or buy a business. 

So here’s a practical guide to looking up an Australian businesses online.

Let’s start with an ABN lookup because we can get a lot of information from this lookup.

You can complete a search using the business name or ABN. For this example, we are completing a lookup using the business name "collective hub"

ABN lookup

ABN lookup

Here are what the search results look like on the next screen. You can click on the correct business name to get more detailed information.

ABN lookup search results

ABN lookup search results

In the next screen pictured below, we can see business details including: the company name, the fact that the company is private, the company registration date and the registered business names used by the company. 

So in this example, the correct legal entity is Messenger Group Pty Ltd and it uses a number of business names such as Collective Hub, Kick Start Smart and The Messenger sometimes referred to as trading as names or t/a in short form.

Detailed results

Detailed business results

If you are looking up a sole trader, you won't need to complete any of the extra steps for ASIC as described below.

Looking up company details

Now that you know the company name, you can go to the ASIC website and lookup the entity "Messenger Group". 

On ASIC's homepage, you can go to the right hand side of the screen and select Companies and organisations.

ASIC's homepage

ASIC's homepage

Below is the next screen you will see. Select Organisation & Business Names from the drop down. And in the box below the dropdown, enter the company you are searching and click Go. In this example, we are searching for Messenger Group.  

ASIC search screen

ASIC search screen

Next, you will see the search results in a screen that looks like this one below. You can select the correct company to get more information about its director, shareholders and registered address.

ASIC search results

ASIC search results

When you click on the correct company name, you can see extra company details like the ones below and you can select either a current company report or a current and historical company information report. We have samples of each report attached so you can see what each report will look like before you buy.

ASIC Company Details

ASIC Company Details

About the author 

Vivian Michael

As founder and lawyer at Michael Law Group, Vivian advises Australia's top entrepreneurs on business and employment matters. Clients benefit from Vivian's commercially focussed and pragmatic legal advice, business experience, and commitment to deliver the best quality business legal services to her clients.

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