The US Federal Trade Commission has made some strong criticisms of the new gTLD program but has refused to answer the question of whether .sucks is behaving illegally.
In a letter to ICANN today (pdf), FTC chair Edith Ramirez took the opportunity to ask for a bunch of changes to the program.
But she declined to reply to ICANN’s original question, which was: are Vox Populi’s launch policies and pricing illegal?
Ramirez said she “cannot comment on the existence of any pending investigations” but said “the FTC will monitor the activities of registries and other actors in this arena” and “will take action in appropriate cases”.
She goes on to make three “recommendations” about new gTLDs in general.
She wants ICANN to “encourage the best practice” of all domain registrants to prominently identify themselves on their web sites, so that consumers are not confused.
This will never happen.
Ramirez then says rights protection mechanisms should be strengthened to prevent companies like Vox Pop violating the “spirit” of the RPMs by charging such high prices.
Finally, she echoes the advice of the Governmental Advisory Committee in asking for gTLDs representing regulated industries to have much more stringent registration requirements.
ICANN is of course under no obligation to take these recommendations as anything other than the comments of a single community member.
It’s good news for .sucks — without a determination of illegal behavior ICANN presumably has no reason to act against it.
It remains to be seen what the Canadian regulator, which ICANN also contacted for guidance, will say.
UPDATE: ICANN has just released the following statement from general counsel John Jeffrey:
We want to thank Chairwoman Ramirez for her response and for the FTC’s active interest in ICANN.
We greatly appreciate the Chairwoman’s stated understanding and appreciation of the importance of the concerns ICANN had conveyed regarding the .SUCKS gTLD rollout, as well as the broader set of consumer protection issues relating to the new gTLD program that the FTC has restated in the Chairwoman’s letter.
The FTC’s comments on consumer protection issues throughout the new gTLD program have been an important part of the dialogue of the ICANN community relating to these topics.