Private corporations around the world are benefiting from undue levels of secrecy around company registers making it impossible for the public to know how businesses are structured and who really owns them, according to a new report released this week by the organisation OpenCorporates.

OpenCorporates’ report, “The Closed World of Company Data” finds that of 55 countries surveyed, the average score for public access to the company register is just 21 out of 100 points. The UK scored highest by a long way with 70 points out of 100, followed by the Czech Republic with 50 points, with the Slovak Republic and Albania (45 points each) also giving good public access to companies registers.

The United States scored badly with just 33 points and several of the world’s most important economies scored 0 points – notably Spain, Greece and Brazil. What this means in practice for members of the public is that even basic company data is not available without registering and often paying a fee to access even a single company record.