ICANN will give new gTLD applicants a $180,000 refund on their application fee if they withdraw before May 2, it has emerged.
This refund is not mentioned in the Applicant Guidebook, in which the maximum refund available is $148,000. Nor could I find any reference to it on the ICANN new gTLDs microsite.
However, in response to an inquiry from DI last night, an ICANN customer service rep said:
Applications withdrawn prior to the posting of the applied-for strings are qualified for a $180000 refund (if such payment has been made and reconciled by ICANN). The USD5000 registration fee is non-refundable.
The posting of the applied-for strings occurs approximately 2 weeks after the end of the application window, which closes on 12 April 2012. Applications withdrawn after the posting of the applied-for strings will receive refunds according to the refund schedule in section 1.5 of the Applicant Guidebook.
At least one other person, new gTLD consultant Michael Palage of Pharos Global, was told substantially the same thing by the new gTLD service center earlier this week.
I believe ICANN is currently targeting May 2 for its Big Reveal, when we all find out who’s applying for what. May 1, I believe, has been ruled out because it’s a public holiday in some parts of the world.
I don’t think this apparently obscure refund opportunity significantly increases the risk of gaming, but I can see how it might alter some applicants’ strategies.
It’s possible, for example, that in some cases it might now make more sense for an applicant to announce its bid between April 12 and May 2.
After April 12, nobody will be able to file a competing, gaming application, but revealing a strong bid might be enough to scare already-competing applicants into dropping out for a 97% refund.
I don’t think it really helps reluctant dot-brand applicants, which have asked for the $180,000 refund to be available after they know what the competitive landscape for similar strings looks like.