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Guy hit with $1,600 bill a month after registering “premium” name for $12.99

Kevin Murphy, April 23, 2014, 19:26:34 (UTC), Domain Registrars

101domain has sent out almost 50 invoices, believed to total many thousands of dollars, to customers who had bought “premium” domain names for $12.99 well over a month ago.

One DI reader, who said he’d rather not be named, received a bill from the registrar today for $1587.01 for a .みんな domain name he hand-registered March 10 for the base fee of $12.99.

The email from 101domain stated that unless he pays the bill by 5pm PST tomorrow, his domain will be deleted:

It has come to our attention that the .みんな registry considers certain name(s) that you have registered with us as premium names and that there were some intermittent pricing errors on our website allowing you to purchase these name(s) at regular pricing. The cause of this error has been resolved and we sincerely apologize for the error.

In order to correct these pricing errors, the Registry has granted us the option to delete these names if we are unable to collect the premium pricing from our customers.

Due to a short deadline, payment must be received by Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5pm PST in order for deletion of the name not to occur. In the event that payment isn’t received by Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5pm PST the domain name(s) will be deleted, released back into the pool of available domain names, and any payments previously received for the domain names will be fully refunded to you.

The registrar offered a full refund of the $12.99 and a 20% discount coupon as compensation.

“I am not sure what’s the legal status of this,” the registrant told DI. “Also asking for this a more than a month later (purchased on 10th of March), besides being not cool, is just wrong.”

.みんな is one of Google’s new gTLDs. It’s Japanese for “everyone”.

101domain COO Anthony Beltran told DI that “fewer than 50” names were affected by the pricing error, all of them in .みんな.

“Literally every registry is doing things differently, but we have committed to offering them as our customers overwhelmingly demand them,” he said. “Most of them understand, as early adopters, there will be occasional issues, and our disclaimers and T&Cs speak to this.”

He offered the following explanation for the error:

In order to offer pre-paid orders, 101domain’s practice is to put up pricing as soon as it is confirmed and as soon as we receive lists of premium names, reserved names, and name collisions from a registry. This is generally well before EPP is available so there is no live domain:check. Our search queries these lists internally to offer accurate pricing well before most other registrars do so that our clients are well ahead of the curve with plenty of time to research and submit orders. Mistakes do rarely occur; some premium lists are fluid, complications have been introduced with SEDO and AFTERNIC getting exclusive listings of premium names (while we have access through their distribution channels like SEDO MLS), or names are snapped up in Sunrise, EAP, or Landrush. We will typically notify clients prior to names becoming active of any changes in pricing or availability and promptly refund in full if requested. With this TLD, this did not happen properly unfortunately.

Nobody’s claiming Google did anything wrong.

I’m not sure what American or Californian consumer protection law says about this kind of thing, but it is a quite startling situation.

Are there any other fields of commerce where you can be billed a month later because a retailer got confused about its wholesale prices?

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Comments (36)

  1. Samit says:

    Here at least the registry has some kind of list.

    What would you do if a registry went rogue and raised ALL domain prices to $2k/yr?

    Though how the domains resolved(?) for 30 days before they realised they had mucked it up is beyond me.

  2. Acro says:

    They should tell Google kuso kurae!

  3. Leonard Britt says:

    I had a similar situation with ENOM on a .TV domain several years ago – a domain mistakenly priced at $50 that should have been $500. So if I go into Best Buy and see a laptop priced at $50, I buy it and take it home, I guess they still have a right a week later to take it back due to a pricing error.

  4. Aaron Strong says:

    Good catch Kevin. This is a startling disappointment…..Errors and mistakes in most industries are generally not passed to customers when the “supply chain” is at fault………..

  5. brand says:

    Mishap after mishap with these new extensions.

  6. annoyed says:

    Giving such a short notice of 24 hours is not acceptable.

    Let the registrar go back to the Registry (Google) in this case, and tell them that things got messed up, and that they should work it out between themselves rather than dumping it on the consumer and having both of them getting a bad name…

    I am also not sure this is legal to request this a month later. Btw- I wonder if other registrars also had the wrong prices at the time. How does 101domain new the mistake was on their end?

  7. We discuss this issue in depth on tomorrow’s DomainSherpa show. It should be the problem of 101domain. They made the mistake, they need to take responsibility. I consider this act extortion.

  8. WirelessMaven says:

    WOW- I thought this just happened to me… I too am a victim of this issue with them, “registered & paid” for domains in early March, got confirmation emails stating names were mine, registered and paid for, etc. Then just yesterday afternoon I am hit with multiple emails from them stating what others I see also got — the domain pricing went up, most were 10 times the initial amount, others were 60x to almost 325x the initial amount!!! And yes I had 24 hours to decide to pay additional money or lose them and get a refund…. Bait and Switch? Extortion? “Systems billing error”? I dont care what they call it, its wrong and I think unethical practice. You (we) buy in good faith, follow the rules and pricing at time of purchase, get confirmation and a “thanks” and then “6+-weeks later get hit with this”… What ever happened to the companies honoring “the customer is always right” or “Customer loyalty is job #1″…. As someone mentioned above, the company was in error, this is “their internal screw up”, not the customer, we should not be the ones to get penalized for this!

  9. Hello all,

    I appreciate the comments and feedback. Myself being a customer at various registrars I would be just as upset. But many also understand this is a new animal in its infancy where errors are bound to occur; especially with this program where the complexity, restrictions, options, and amount of new players is so vast.

    We are certainly not a bait & switch operation and have attempted to obtain the best solution.

    We have offered a refund instead and are not forcing customers to pay, which is I admit less than ideal, but a solution. One point of clarification regarding deletes which should have been explained in the email is that Customers will still have 45 days during redemption to pay the premium price for their names per ICANN rules. Just like most other new gTLD registries, renewal pricing is also premium which unfortunately registrars have no control over dictating.

    Registries are still very much working out their processes for premium names, reserved names and more. Most processes are reliable, but we’ve all seen (and read about on this website) similar errors with reserved and ICANN reserved names being delegated by mistake, registries creating premium lists in the 11th hour and other flubs.

    The process here for premium names put in place by the registry was simply unreliable and we have consulted with them to ensure their future processes are error-proof.

    I am personally not a fan of these premium name policies and their complexity and lack of transparency for customers and have voiced my opinion to various partners but with little effect.

    Perhaps registries will reconsider later, but with the demand, and there is plenty demand, for premium names, I don’t see things changing and time soon.

    Sincerely,
    Anthony M. Beltran

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      But considering that a pricing policy exists, what would be the best way from a registrars perspective to implement such a policy ?
      – Price list download
      – EPP pricing extension
      – Flag for registrars that don’t want to sell premium names (affects domain check and/or rejects domain create)

    • annoyed says:

      Sorry.. that is not a good enough answer…

      Go back to your supplier-in this case registry..google.. and sort it out between yourselves. This is illegal.

      I go to Macy’s and buy a shirt. Will Macy’s come back to me a month later and say..oops.. got the wrong price on it.. We were working with this new supplier and messed up the price…(??)

      I dont know how you Americans work and protect your consumers, but i thought you were the leaders in consumer protection!!

      Where I live, if there is a tag price at a shop you are obligated to honor it, even if you didnt yet pay for it. Here these people paid already for the domain. In addition if you buy that product on a website online -and you gave wrong price and consumer paid -you have to honor it.

      Beyond that, even if it says in the T&C’s that you can do as you wish.. it is not acceptable. The question is whether a reasonable consumer would be aware of that. The answer in this case is: NOT!
      So go back the registry and sort it out with them.

      • Kevin Murphy says:

        The Macy’s analogy may not hold. If 101domain were to swallow the price difference here, how would that work come renewal time? Would they have to swallow it again? And again? Forever? Are they allowed to impose a premium renewal on a domain they sold at base price? What if you sold the domain before renewal, would the new registrant get hit with the premium price?

        • annoyed says:

          I dont have a solution, but for this year they should own up to it. And in my opinion the Registry Google can in this case even waver the premium prices permanently. Its not like they cant handle the loss.

  10. Steve says:

    .ねじ込み – .screwed.
    This is another reason for International surfers and business users to resort to the best, most recognized, affordable and most stable idn extension there is, idn.com

    idn.whatevers are just that imo.

    • annoyed says:

      I hate to break it to you, but you guys lost on your main idn’s. Other IDN’s did great. In China – your bet was wrong. Just dig a little on idnforums.com

      • Steve says:

        Lots of direct nav traffic flows to the idn.com’s. For $10/year/name it’s a safe bet compared to, Oh we forgot to send you a $1000+ bill for the REAL price for this idn.whatever you just picked up. No thanks.

        idn.com in most languages will continue to provide traffic. Rolling out new idn.whatevers and sending customers MASSIVE bills after the customer registers the name. Pretty low life approach to selling names if you ask me.
        Everyone that registered their names for $12 each owns them. If the registry messed up then that’s there problem. Individual owners should have rights to the names as long as there is no “fine print” in the agreement that lets the registries off the hook.

        Again this nonsense just proves there is huge value in the .com extension in many languages as it appears to be the most stable/honest.

  11. Brendan says:

    Well, if less than 50 domains were affected, I got a quarter of them.

    I got twelve invoices from 101domain.com yesterday for over $10,000 for names registered on March 12.

    After the 20% discount the balance is $8,228.12:

    List of Affected Domain Names
    金***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 150 USD
    Amount due: 137.01 USD
    郵***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 150 USD
    Amount due: 137.01 USD
    カ***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 150 USD
    Amount due: 137.01 USD
    天***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 150 USD
    Amount due: 137.01 USD
    薬***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 1740 USD
    Amount due: 1727.01 USD
    マ***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 2900 USD
    Amount due: 2887.01 USD
    ア***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 580 USD
    Amount due: 567.01 USD
    健***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 730 USD
    Amount due: 717.01 USD
    赤***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 730 USD
    Amount due: 717.01 USD
    電***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 1020 USD
    Amount due: 1007.01 USD
    ハ***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 1020 USD
    Amount due: 1007.01 USD
    スポ***.みんな
    Corrected Price: 1160 USD
    Amount due: 1147.01 USD

  12. Anthony,
    Sorry, that dog won’t hunt and I don’t even have a dog in this race. This will become a huge issue. Why should your customer feel the brunt of mistakes by others??

    Whoever was NEGLIGENT, owns this expense! The Domainer is the last one to be holding the bag. He did nothing wrong but is PAYING for your mistakes or Google or whoever.

    Trust in this industry is going out the window. Credibility once lost is next to impossible to get back. 101domain.com is about to lose credibility.

    • Brendan says:

      When I first got these invoices I thought it might be a larger oversight than it was… a thousand names or more at ~800/each could run into the millions, thus putting the registrar at risk financially.

      Reading that there are only ~50 names TOTAL, we’re talking under $100k. The registrar should have owned this mistake. Having only two days to make a decision didn’t help the process, either.

      There really isn’t anything for a registrant to do here.

  13. JamesL says:

    What happens if the registrant of one of these domains spent thousands of dollars making a website and developing it? It is likely that a registrant did that, after all it took over a month for the Registrar to catch the error.

  14. Dave says:

    I’ve had this issue to for 4 domains:

    いい.みんな 12.99 USD 150 USD 137.01 USD
    ONLINE.みんな 12.99 USD 150 USD 137.01 USD
    おたく.みんな 12.99 USD 1890 USD 1877.01 USD
    オンライン.みんな 12.99 USD 730 USD 717.01 USD

    As I have already started building sites specifically for these domains this is frustrating to say the least. I’m interested to see what if any compensation is offered.

  15. Avtal says:

    Here’s what I think 101domain should have written:

    “Dear registrant, this domain stuff is complicated, and we messed up. At this point, we can offer you two choices:

    1) Keep the domain for the $12.95 that you paid (we will make up the difference to the registry), but be aware that after this first year, you will have to renew at the premium price, at your own expense.

    2) Drop the domain now. If you do so, not only will we refund the $12.99 in cash, we will give you $500 credit at 101domain to use for registrations, renewals, and transfers.”

    —-

    (The $500 credit might instead be 25 or 50 percent of the premium price).

    Of course, this would cost quite a bit more than the course 101domain chose to follow.

    Avtal

  16. Greetings all,

    We appreciate all of the candid responses and the far from ideal situation this has become.

    Our customers come first and we will be releasing a better solution to those affected as well as a detailed account of exactly what occurred tomorrow so that you hopefully will continue to have trust in our service and technologies.

    We pride ourselves on transparency and fairness in prices and our service here at 101domain and this entire situation and combination of unfortunate circumstances goes against this mission.

    Those customers that have already been in contact with us are communicating directly with me. If you would like to reach me directly please email anthony [at] 101domain.com

    Sincerely,
    Anthony M. Beltran
    COO/CFO
    101domain, Inc.

    • unimpressed says:

      Will you be taking this up with Google and try and find a better solution?

      I think this will be a case which can have a huge affect on the whole new gTLD program. It can get major media coverage, if some people decide to push this forward and warn people that Icann/registries/registrars don’t give a darn about their customers because they can come back to them a month later and up the price to whatever-they decide….

  17. Andrew Merriam says:

    Was 101 selling these names prior to GA? So, essentially taking money for pre-registrations?

  18. Nic says:

    “We pride ourselves on transparency and fairness in prices and our service here at 101domain and this entire situation and combination of unfortunate circumstances goes against this mission.”

    Yes. Indeed. So why did you not pay the registry and/or argue with them about the your, or their, mistake? It seems your ethical values don’t translate into practice. How it happened, is beside the point.

  19. I had a look into our back-end and notice that actually Charlestonroad Registry (Google) is one of the only ones who doesn’t have an easy system to check if a certain name is premium or not. The only way to know, is by checking a spreadsheet.

    Most other registries will require you to explicitly indicate to agree to the premium pricing when trying to register such a domain name. Others will at least have a way to check via EPP if a name is premium before registering it.

    While it is obviously up to the registrar to make sure this doesn’t go wrong even if the registry is making things difficult, it still is a #fail for Google if you ask me, to not have implemented this better.

  20. Steve says:

    Sounds like it could still be automated if it is the case.

    What is the latest on this – weren’t they supposed to have something on the table on Friday?

  21. Brad Mugford says:

    “April 24, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Our customers come first and we will be releasing a better solution to those affected as well as a detailed account of exactly what occurred tomorrow so that you hopefully will continue to have trust in our service and technologies.”

    Where is the update?

    Brad

  22. Jim says:

    Domain costs $1,600. Can’t understand why people think that taking the registrar to court would change that.

    Buying it for 12.99 anywhere else wouldn’t have been possible So what’s all the girlie moaning about? At least they registered it for them then asked them to pay or it would be deleted instead of just cancelling the order – isn’t that best case scenario anyway?

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