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Chinese registrars ask ICANN to waive fees due to Coronavirus

Kevin Murphy, March 3, 2020, 12:24:13 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Almost 50 registries and registrars based in China have asked ICANN to temporarily waive its fees due to the economic impact they say Covid-19 — the new Coronavirus — is having on them.

They’ve all put their names to a February 21 letter (pdf) that ICANN published over the weekend, saying they “believe that it’s essential that ICANN provides immediate fee waiver to registries and registrars in China”.

The letter, signed by more than half of the currently accredited registrars in China, notes the cancellation of the Cancun public meeting, adding:

We highly respect and welcome ICANN’s approach to keep our community safe. Meanwhile, the contracted parties in China, including their staff, suppliers, and relevant business counterparts, are being hit and suffered by the 2019-nCoV in a much greater scale than in other countries and regions combined since January 2020. Many of the staff members have been restrained to perform sales and support functions at the level they are required to. There are significant delays in collections, payments and wire transfers. While we expect that the scale of 2019-nCoV could not go greater, the business growth estimate in 2020 has been jeopardized and the time of recovery can be very long.

While domestic aid on tax, rentals, etc. are being discussed and confirmed, we believe that it’s essential that ICANN provides immediate fee waiver to registries and registrars in China. The waiver of 2020 fees, including annual fees and transaction fees, will greatly help stabilize our business in the difficult time.

This is not a small ask. ICANN collects fees based on transaction volume, and many millions of transactions originate in China. That’s particularly true in the new gTLD space, where China dominates.

The Chinese companies say that ICANN could afford to waive the fees due to the money they say ICANN will save by cancelling Cancun and other international travel.

My hunch is that ICANN won’t agree to these demands. While China is currently undoubtedly disproportionately affected by Covid-19, that situation is rapidly changing.

In the coming weeks and months it’s quite possible — worst-case scenario — the rest of the world could be similarly affected. Is ICANN prepared to set a precedent that could see it sacrifice its entire annual budget? I doubt it.

All previous requests for ICANN to waive its fees for various other reasons have been denied.

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Comments (5)

  1. Mark Thorpe says:

    It won’t be approved.

  2. James says:

    Agreed, Kevin, I can’t see ICANN granting this request. The precedent would be set for registrars in other affected areas (Japan, S. Korea, Italy..US?) to seek similar relief as more countries are affected by CoVID19.

    And unless they cut a deal with the venue or local government, I highly doubt that ICANN saved any money by canceling the meeting in Cancun.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Even if it did not get a full refund from the venue, it will have saved some money on travel support, presumably. I doubt anyone’s going to be getting a per diem to sit at home at their laptops in their PJs.

  3. Snoopy says:

    Ridiculous request, one of the co’s requesting a handout is Alibaba, a $560 billion dollar company.

    These Chinese corporations should get zero handouts from Icann. They should instead apply to the Communist Party of China (who probably owns half of these co’s anyway).

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