Each society is under a statutory obligation to maintain a register of its members (although the form in which it is maintained is at the discretion of the society). The register must show each members name and address and whether that person is a shareholding member or a borrowing member. The register must be kept at the societys principal office or such other place or places as the societys directors think fit.
Companies are under a statutory obligation to make their share registers available for inspection by the general public. There is no equivalent obligation on building societies with respect to the registers of their members. A society is not required to allow access to its register other than in the circumstances provided for in paragraph 15 of Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act. Except to the limited extent that access is permitted under that paragraph, a societys register of members is confidential (and subject to data protection legislation).
There are two principal reasons for the confidentiality of the registers of members of building societies. First, it is to protect the privacy of members, whether individually or generally, so the fact that a person is either a shareholder in or a borrower from a particular society (or both) is not subject to indiscriminate disclosure. Second, it is to protect the commercial interests of societies given that it could be to their competitive disadvantage if the identities of their shareholding and borrowing members, who are their customers, were readily available to competitor organisations (the identity of whose customers is not so available).
Within the framework set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act, it is the responsibility of the Authorityto balance the rights of individual members generally to privacy, and of societies to commercial confidentiality, with the reasonable right of particular individual members to get in touch with each other on matters relating to the affairs of their society. The confidentiality of the information held on the register can be set aside only where the applicant can make out the case within the exceptional circumstances described in paragraph 15 of Schedule 2. In the opinion of the Authority, the exception is to be considered as much a privilege as a right.