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.uk suspension problems worse than I thought

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2014, 10:39:51 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Problems validating the addresses of .uk domain registrants, which caused one registrar to dump the TLD entirely, are broader than I reported yesterday.

Cronon, which does business as Strato, announced last week that it has stopped selling .uk domain names because in more than a third of cases Nominet, the registry, is unable to validate the Whois data.

In many cases the domain is subsequently suspended, causing customer support headaches.

It now transpires that the problems are not limited to .uk second-level names, are not limited to UK registrants, and are not caused primarily by mailing address validation failures.

Michael Shohat, head of registrar services at Cronon, got in touch last night to clarify that most of its affected customers are in fact from its native Germany or from the Netherlands.

All of the affected names are .co.uk names, not .uk SLDs, he added.

And the validation is failing in the large majority of cases not due to Nominet’s inability to validate a mailing address, but rather its inability to validate the identity of the registrant.

“This is where the verification is failing. The database they are using can’t find many of our registrants’ company names,” Shohat said.

“So 30% of our registrations were being put on hold, almost all of them from [Germany] and [the Netherlands], and 90% of them because of the company name. We checked lots of them and in every single case the name of the company was correct, and the address as well,” he said.

Michele Neylon of the ICANN Registrar Stakeholders Group said that Cronon is not the only registrar to have been affected by these issues. Blacknight Solutions, the registrar Neylon runs, has been complaining about the problem since May.

According to Neylon, the Nominet policy causing the issue is its data quality policy, which covers all .uk and .co.uk (etc) names.

The policy itself is pretty vague — Nominet basically says it will work with each individual registrar to determine a baseline of what can be considered a “minimum proportion of valid data”, given the geographic makeup of the registrar’s customer base.

Domains that fail to meet these criteria have a “Data Quality Lock” imposed — essentially a suspension of the domain’s ability to resolve.

Earlier this year, Nominet did backtrack on plans to implement an automatic cancellation of the names after 30 days of non-compliance, following feedback from its registrars.

“It’s disappointing that Cronon have taken this step; we hope they will consider working with us to find a way to move forward,” a Nominet spokesperson added.

She said that the registry has over recent years moved to “more proactive enforcement” of Whois accuracy. She pointed out that Nominet takes on the “lion’s share of the work”, reducing the burden on registrars.

“However, our solution does not include non-UK data sets to cross-reference with, so it is possible that some false positives occur,” she said. “Registrars with a large non-UK registrant bases, who are not accredited channel partners, would be affected more than others.”

An Accredited Channel Partner is the top tier of the three Nominet offers to registrars. It has additional data validation requirements but additional benefits.

While .co.uk domains are not limited to UK-based registrants, all .uk SLD registrants do need to have a UK mailing address in their Whois for legal service.

The company’s inability to validate many non-UK business identities seems to mean .co.uk could also slowly become a UK-only space by the back door.

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Comments (9)

  1. The troubling issue for me is that the Registry, via the registrar, collects Registrants’ dough prior to alerting the registrant of such verification problems, and then refuses to issue a refund in the uncompleted registration; but opts to keep the money, and suspend the domain.

    That is pathetic, and disrespectful.

    If the Registry or Registrar is unable to verify anything that they require, then they should promptly refund the money to the Registrant without a goddamn delay. These sons of a bitches will learn how to respect the little guy the hard way one day.

    I know I was on the phone chewing out one of Godaddy’s VP on why continue carrying the .uk and .co.uk products as long as they maintained those unfair policies, as I was not willing to remove Godaddy from responsible culprits in the matter.

    • Dan Rodgers says:

      That’s not strictly true, Nominet is actually one of the most flexible registries as they allow registrars to delete domains and get a refund for ~1 month after registration.

      So there’s nothing to stop a registrar – from a technical/registry policy – point of view cancelling the registration and issuing a refund.

      That said, the registrant should have agreed to Nominet’s terms when they registered the domain also.

      This is however, quite a serious problem and quite frustrating that they have chosen to require suspension because they can’t validate something against inadequate sources…

  2. “That’s not strictly true, Nominet is actually one of the most flexible registries as they allow registrars to delete domains and get a refund for ~1 month after registration”.

    A cocktail with 40% alcohol, such as a fine Cognac on the rocks, even with a dash of Schweppes, is still alcoholic, and therefore regulated by government agencies. The potent factor doesn’t have to be 100%. When a Registrar’s policy is mixed with that of the Registry, Godaddy and Nominet accordingly, then the cocktail is what it is; we have to hold them both responsible.

    Now, I know that Godaddy does a prompt refund, with no questions asked or needed, within 3 days of purchasing any other domain product, except Nominet’s. So you tell me, what does that tell us?

    • Dan Rodgers says:

      It tells us Godaddy either doesn’t understand that they can get a refund, or has made a choice NOT to do so on that product. It says nothing about Nominet what so ever.

      This is Godaddy who snubbed getting their own tag for many years…

      It makes no sense to blame Nominet when their policy allows it, if the registrar chooses not to extend that then it rests solely on the registrars shoulders – Yes, a customer might not understand that and blame Nominet but when you know the facts it doesn’t really make any sense.

      • “It makes no sense to blame Nominet when their policy allows it, if the registrar chooses not to extend that then it rests solely on the registrars shoulders – ” Dan Rodgers

        If you can prove to me that Nominet does not receive and retain any portion of the Registrant’s money via Godaddy on the “suspended” (incomplete registration) domain, I’ll accept your statement; as far as Nominet keeps any portion of that registration fee, and then suspends the domain, the onus is on their heads.

        Follow the money.

        • Dan Rodgers says:

          I was referring exclusively to the statement regarding registrars allowing customers to delete domains and receive a refund.

          In terms of domains which Nominet flags and is unable verify the details with the registrant, or in the case of Accredited registrars they are unable to verify with the registrant/their customer.

          If this doesn’t happen, then nominet, or the registrar (as required) is obligated to suspend the domain – this does of course mean that Nominet and the registrar keeps the fees paid for that period regardless of the fact the domain will not resolve.

          While I think this is a problem, and I do personally disagree with the suspension requirement while their validation processes allow for so many false positives due to the unneeded burden on the registrant posed. There is a very simple solutions.

          Registrants do also need to take a little more responsibility with their names starting with ensuring their email address is always up-to-date and working and that they respond to emails regarding their domains – If done, while a pain, it should then be fairly easy to verify the details or correct them.

          This is also a particularly big burden on registrars which often only make pence/uk domain/year.

          • @Dan Rodgers,

            The topic of this thread is reporting that the problem with the verification, at least a lot of it, is on Registry/Registrar side, not the Registrant’s. Hear Murphy: “Problems validating the addresses of .uk domain registrants, which caused one registrar to dump the TLD entirely, are broader than I reported yesterday”.

            It’s spelled out more in the article, because I see you have a wonderful comprehension acumen, I will avoid quoting it profusely; besides it’s only a glance up away. So, the poor Registrant pays his or her hard-earned money for one of Nominet’s products via Godaddy, the latter and Nominet are having troubles with their tools of verification, totally unrelated to the Registrant’s candor or obligations, yet the duo take the money, and suspend the Registrant’s name. Do you understand? That;s unacceptable. Even if everything you suggest is true, including unscrupulous Registrant actions, he/she is entitled to a refund if the registration fails. Suspension denotes completion at some point prior, and I don’t see that had happened if there’s a requirement for verification. The registration is only successful, and complete after registration. You cannot suspend an incomplete registration; you can suspend the application, but then you have to refund the money, promptly.

          • I found time to paste the relevant section of Murppy’s article above that exonerates the Registrant, so you can see how stunning it is that Nominet takes the money, Nominet is at fault with the verifications, and Nominet suspends, here’s the quote:

            “And the validation is failing in the large majority of cases not due to Nominet’s inability to validate a mailing address, but rather its inability to validate the identity of the registrant.

            “This is where the verification is failing. The database they are using can’t find many of our registrants’ company names,” Shohat said.

            “So 30% of our registrations were being put on hold, almost all of them from [Germany] and [the Netherlands], and 90% of them because of the company name. We checked lots of them and in every single case the name of the company was correct, and the address as well,” he said”.

            • Dan Rodgers says:

              I don’t doubt the burden this puts on registrants in the slightest.

              My main dispute was with the comment regarding issue refunds, the registrar can, but often chooses not to for business reasons – I don’t think it makes sense to lay blame on this with Nominet when it’s not within their control.

              In terms of Validation leading to suspension and this somehow requiring auto-refund, this would be near impossible to handle and cause more frustration for the customer in my experience.

              This would lead to VERY angry customers when their domains are cancelled and refunded without them realising to find the domain they thought they protected is now owned by squatters (or worse).

              It’s also worth noting the comparison, ICANN requires registrars to suspend domains within 15 days if the email bounces/isn’t verified and the registrant doesn’t fix it where as Nominet it’s 30 days.

              Again, I completely agree that it’s a burden and somewhat agree that while the validation process is so poor, particularly for non-UK registrants – Both in terms of Names and addresses it’s an unfair burden to suspend domains due to the high false-positive rate.

              That said, it’s all down to the registrars service (where accredited) to provide a good service and help customers verify their details.

              While I accept it’s a pain, the barrier for what is an acceptable source to verify details is relatively low – All the registrant has to do is send a photo or scan of a bill with their name/address or take a quick snap of their ID and send it to their registrar, once done the registrar can verify the details and all future registrations based on that verification.

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