Can you register a company at a virtual office address?

A common question among entrepreneurs is whether you can register a company at a virtual office address. On the news you often read about foreign companies with a postal address in the Netherlands. Having so-called P.O. box companies has it’s advantages. The majority of entrepreneurs know that this possibility exists, but how you manage it and which requirements you have to meet, is still unclear to many. It all starts with registration at the Chamber of Commerce. It is possible to register your business even if you live abroad. However, there is a main request: your company must have a Dutch visiting address or the business activities of your company must take place in the Netherlands.

Legal requirements webshop

As the owner of a webshop you have legal obligations towards the customer.  It is mandatory to have a  return policy, you must be reachable for customer enquiries, you are liable for the warranty and you are required to offer at least one after-payment option. In the case of a consumer purchase, the demand is also that a consumer does not have to pay more than 50% of the purchase amount in advance. Of course it is allowed, if the consumer does this voluntarily, to do a full payment but a (web) retailer is not allowed to oblige. This demand only applies when you purchase products, for services, full prepayment is required.

Is mentioning an address mandatory?

The location of the contact information must be clearly and logically findable in the webshop. The reason behind this is that a customer has the right to know who he/she is doing business with. This requirement is being supported by the law and is therefore mandatory for every webshop.

The contact information consists out of three parts:

  • The identity of the company
  • The contact details of the company
  • The geographical address of the company.

The identity of the company means the registration details of the company such as the Chamber of Commerce number, the VAT-number and the company name. The contact details are the data that consumers can use to contact the webshop. The geographical address is referred to as the address from which the company does its business. The geographical address must be a visitable address and cannot be a P.O. Box address. In many small webshops, is the contact address  the same as the geographical address. It may be difficult to comply with the requirement to provide contact details. Here below you can read more about how you can still meet this requirement.

Virtual address

If you don’t want or aren’t able to give a visitable address on your webshop, you can use a virtual office address. This address can also be managed by the organization you pay rent to. This kind of organizations also have various services such as tracking and forwarding of postal items. Having a Dutch address is good for the trust of visitors of  your webshop.

For who?

You may need a virtual office address for several reasons. A virtual office address is mostly for:

  • People who do business at home; who want to keep business and private life separate.
  • People who do business abroad, but also are attempting to maintain an office in the Netherlands;
  • People with an enterprise in the Netherlands, who would like to have a virtual office.

Under certain conditions, a virtual address may be registered in the Chamber of Commerce.

Registration at the Chamber of Commerce

During the application process one or more branches of your company will be registered. In this process both the postal address and the visiting address will be registered. The visiting address will only apply if you can prove that your branch is located there. This can be verified by means of a rental contract. This also applies if your company is located at a business centre. If the tenancy agreement shows that you are permanently renting an office(space), you may register this as your visiting address in the Trade Register. Having a permanent renting address does not mean that you always must be present, but you must have the ability to be permanently present if required. For example, if you rent a desk or office for two hours a week, is not enough to meet the requirements for the registration of your company.

To register your company, you need to have several documents available:

  • The registration forms of the Chamber of Commerce;
  • A signed rental, – purchase, – or lease contract from the Dutch visiting address;
  • A legalised copy of a valid proof of identity (you can arrange this with the Dutch embassy or a notary);
  • An original extract or legalised copy of the population register of the foreign municipality in which you live, or another document from an official organisation stating your foreign address.

Regulations of the Chamber of Commerce concerning ‘Virtual Office’

In recent years has been noticed that a virtual office was an office where a company was located but where the actual work wasn’t executed. A couple of years ago, the Chamber of Commerce changed the rules for a virtual office. In the past it was common for so-called ‘Ghost’ companies to settle their businesses at a virtual office address. In order to prevent illegal activities, the Chamber of Commerce checks whether the companies are having a virtual office who also carry out their activities from this same address. The Chamber of Commerce calls this sustainable business practice. This does not mean that entrepreneurs who have a virtual office must also be permanently present there, but it does mean that they must have the ability to be permanently present when needed.

If you have any questions about this blog or if you have difficulties with the Chamber of Commerce, please contact the lawyers of Law & More. We will answer your questions and provide legal assistance where necessary.

Law & More