Under the Fair Trading Act 2015, any person wishing to trade (whether wholesale or retail) in Gibraltar, import goods into Gibraltar in commercial quantities, and/or provide a service in Gibraltar will need to obtain a business licence (unless the business is already regulated under separate legislation). This includes people trading or otherwise conducting business as a sole trader, partnership or a company.
The functions of the Trade Licence Authority are carried out by the Business Licensing Authority (the “BLA”) which operates under the Office of Fair Trading. The BLA will often consult with other bodies when considering applications for certain types of businesses (for example, the BLA will consult with the Gibraltar Medical Registration Board when considering applications made for a pharmacy or medical clinic).
N.B. Please note that on 29 October 2020, the Government of Gibraltar published the Fair Trading Bill 2020 which, once passed, will replace the Fair Trading Act 2015. It is intended that the Bill will introduce a series of important changes to the current business licensing regime, the most noticeable being that of enforcement powers granted to the OFT which will allow them to impose various types of sanctions on business licence holders. For more information, please click to read our analysis on the Fair Trading Bill 2020 – Changes to Business Licensing in Gibraltar you need to know about.
The information below therefore remains current until such time as the Fair Trading Bill 2020 is implemented. This is likely to now occur some time during 2021.
Who should apply for a business licence?
Any person wishing to trade (wholesale or retail) or provide a service should apply for a business licence unless the business is already regulated under separate legislation.
The term “trade” includes, but is not limited to:
- buying or selling goods; and
- importing goods into Gibraltar in commercial quantities.
A person who imports goods into Gibraltar should still apply for a business licence even if they do not sell the goods.
The term “services” includes, but is not limited to:
- construction services, road transport contracting and crafts;
- business-related services to include office maintenance, management consultancy, event organisation, debt recovery, advertising and recruitment services;
- tourism services to include travel agents;
- leisure services to include sports and amusement centres;
- installation and maintenance of equipment;
- online services provided from Gibraltar;
- information society services to include publishing – print and web, news agencies, computer programming;
- accommodation and food services to include hotels, restaurants and caterers;
- training and education services;
- rentals and leasing services to include car rental;
- real estate services;
- beauty therapists and hairdressers;
- car repair workshops;
- builders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and decorators; and
- self-employed persons who provide services.
The list above is not exhaustive which means that if the services provided do not fall within one of these categories, the business should still apply for a business licence.
At first instance it may not be clear which categories of services are relevant to your business, but it is important that the business licence obtained fully covers the services being provided. We would be happy to assist you in identifying the categories which are relevant to your particular business model.
Regulated Under Separate Legislation
In general, where a business is regulated under separate legislation, they do not need to apply for a business licence to the Office of Fair Trade but may have to apply elsewhere. For example, an investment business licensed under the Financial Services (Investment and Fiduciary Services) Act or a taxi driver licensed under the Transport Act do not need to apply for a business licence.
Approved Goods List
The BLA have created an approved goods list and allocated goods into different groups on the list. Applicants wishing to trade particular goods should review this list and ensure the correct group(s) of goods that they intend to trade are selected in their application. We would be happy to assist you in identifying the relevant group of goods for your business.
Part of the application process allows for the general public to make objections on a number of grounds. We are happy to assist with addressing or making any objections on your behalf.
Who may object?
Any person or business may object to an application for a business licence as long as they:
(a) notify the BLA and the applicant usually within 7 days from the date the notice of intention to apply for a business licence is published by the applicant;
(b) state the grounds of such objection; and
(c) pay a fee of £90 to the BLA.
On what grounds can someone object?
A person or business wishing to object to an application for a business licence may do so on a number of grounds. However, the two main grounds of objection are:
(a) The issue of the licence is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to persons residing or occupying premises in the neighbourhood of the premises in respect of which the licence is sought; and/or
(b) The issue of the licence would operate against the public interest.
Under the Trade Licensing Act a person could also object on the ground that the needs of the community are already adequately provided for. This ground is no longer available under the Act.
Once the Business Licensing Authority receives the notice of the objection, they will consider the objection at a hearing. Hearings should be held at least every 2 weeks. At least 5 days’ notice of the hearing must be given to the applicant and the objector in writing. Both the applicant and the objector and their legal representatives may attend the hearing. Both sides may give evidence, call witnesses, cross-examine witnesses and address the Business Licensing Authority.
Change of Premises
If a business with a business licence wishes to change its address, it will need to do so with the BLA’s consent after publishing the relevant notices in the Gazette and local newspaper. We can also assist you with the process of transferring the business licence to another premises.
Gibraltar Business Licensing FAQS
- Do I need to apply for a licence?
If you would like to trade (whether by wholesale or retail) or import goods into Gibraltar in commercial quantities or provide a service then you will need to apply for a business licence unless the business is already regulated under separate legislation (for example, under the Financial Services (Investment and Fiduciary Services) Act).
If you already hold a licence which was issued under the Trade Licensing Act (“the old law”), you should have received a letter from the Business Licensing Authority which contains instructions on how to renew your licence.
- Do I need a premises?
Maybe. If you are of the opinion that your business does not need a premises, you can apply for a premises waiver. However, please note that this does not mean you will be granted the waiver. If you are not granted a premises waiver, you must prove your premises is appropriate to your business.
The Business Licensing Authority will not issue a licence to a government property or most residential addresses.
If the applicant wishes to conduct their business from a residential address, they should first review the rental agreement or underlease to make sure that there is no restriction on commercial activities being carried on from the premises. The applicant should obtain all necessary approval and consent from the head lessor or freehold owner of the premises.
If a business operates from more than one premises, they will need to apply for a licence for each premises. It is also possible to apply for more than one licence for a single premises, although the businesses will need to be compatible.
- How long does the application process take?
It depends on whether the correct documentation is filed and if there are any objections to the application. If the applicant submits all the correct information and there are no objections, the Business Licensing Authority should grant the applicant a licence within 3 business days of receipt of all the necessary forms and information. It may be the case that an application is discussed between the Business Licensing Authority for any particular reason which may delay the process.
If all the necessary documentation has been filed but someone files an objection within the 7 days time limit, a hearing should be held within 2 weeks of the Business Licensing Authority receiving the objection. Depending on the complexity of the application/objection, the Business Licensing Authority usually makes a decision shortly after the hearing and notifies the parties in writing.
- When will the licence expire?
Licences no longer expire at the end of the calendar year. Instead, each business licence will expire one year from the date it is issued. This also applies to a renewed licence. The licence should be renewed each year if the business wishes to carry on business in Gibraltar.
- How much does a licence cost?
The fee for a new licence for a single business class is £150. The fee for an additional business class is an extra £90. The fee to renew an existing licence with a single business class is £100. There may be additional fees if you receive an objection, for example lawyer’s fees.
- What happens if someone objects to my application?
A hearing should be held to consider the objection. At the hearing the applicant and the objector each have the right to put forward their arguments, give evidence and call witnesses. The Business Licensing Authority will then usually decide whether to issue the licence.
- Are there any other requirements I should know about?
The Fair Trading Act includes a number of other requirements. These include but are not limited to:
- Each licence holder must display the licence at all times in a noticeable position on the premises; and
- A business which handles money for clients (such as an estate agent or travel agent) must have a separate client account for client monies. The business must submit proof of the client account within 3 months from the date of the licence
NB: The information provided here was accurate as at 02/10/20. This information is for general guidance on your licensing obligations and does not constitute legal advice nor should it be relied upon as such.
If you need more details on your licensing obligations or legal advice about what action to take, please contact us. Also, read our Insights post on setting up a business in Gibraltar.
Business Licensing Team
Peter Montegriffo KC
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