BULGARIA'S ONLINE BUSINESS REGISTRY SHOCKINGLY GOES OFFLINE
The online access to the Business (Trade) Registry of Bulgaria's Registry Agency was suddenly unavailable on Thursday to the shock of many business people.
A message on the site of the registry said:
"Dear clients, due to an upgrade of the systems the access to the website of the Trade Registry will be temporarily unavailable. The services linked with the registry will be available in the Registry Agency. We apologize for the inconvenience!"
Even though problems with the online access to the registry have persisted for months on end, this is the first time that it has become outright impossible.
According to experts the systems' collapse has not been caused by their upgrade, but rather by the crash in the cluster of servers, which stores all the information about companies in Bulgaria.
This situation is extremely dangerous as it can lead to loss of information, which would be detrimental to individual businesses, they commented.
The disturbing news comes just a month and a half after the ruling majority in parliament decided that the currently unrestricted public access to the Business (Trade) Registry of Bulgaria's Registry Agency will be limited and paid as of the beginning of 2012.
This is envisaged by amendments to the Trade Registry Law, which parliament conclusively adopted in the middle of April in a highly controversial move with the votes of the MPs from the ruling party oGERB and their allies from the nationalist party Ataka.
There are two types of business databases in Bulgaria - one contains general company data and the second stores contracts, protocols, shareholders' decisions, etc. While the former will remain open to the public, the latter will be restricted, under the adopted amendments.
Information pertaining to business and company cases will be accessible only at the very Registry Agency after producing a request in writing and an ID card. Bulgarians, who want online access to the full information of a company, will be able to do so only after obtaining a digital certificate, issued by the agency, or an e-signature.
It is still unclear how much the certificate will cost. The price for getting an e-signature is BGN 60 for physical persons and BGN 100 for companies.
Opponents have argued that the changes could seriously curtail investigative reporting on the process of privatization and company takeover. Data from the register has been used for journalists' investigative reports and the amendments violate the Constitution where it is written that all Bulgarians have the right to seek, receive and distribute information, they say.
Proponents strike back by saying that the restricted access to companies' case data would be a safeguard against fraud. Currently, all companies in Bulgaria are required to re-register by 31 December 2011.
The author of the proposal, the GERB Member of the Parliament, Emil Radev, explains the move will halt the more and more frequent cases of abuse of personal data.
Radev is a former navy seal from the secret navy unit "Tihina", the unit known as the place of military service for the bosses of the shady, controversial and very powerful Varna-based business group TIM.