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Aussie registrar guilty of $6 million slamming campaign

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2018, Domain Registrars

Domain seller Domain Register Pty Ltd has reportedly been found guilty of scamming thousands of Australians out of a total of $6 million with bogus domain renewal notices.

The Herald Sun reports today that a Federal court ruled that the company’s sales tactics were “misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive in breach of state and federal laws”.

The company, at one time a TPP Wholesale reseller but apparently never ICANN-accredited itself, was notorious for being a leading Aussie practitioner of the old “domain slamming” scam popularized by the Brandon Gray gang through fronts such as Domain Registry of America.

It sent paper invoices that appeared to the casual reader to be renewal notices for .com.au names, but were in fact solicitations to buy matching .com names for an outrageous $249 ($195) per year.

So convincing were the notices that the hit rate was one out of every 14 organizations targeted, the Herald Sun reported. Over 21,000 suckers in total.

According to the newspaper, the court was told that Domain Register made AUD 7.7 million ($6 million) from 31,000 registrations and renewals from January 1, 2011, to May 30, 2014.

The lawsuit was filed by Australian state government watchdog Consumer Affairs Victoria a year ago, but the domain industry was warning punters about the scam as far back as 2011.

Domain Register’s punishment has yet to be determined, but the agency had been seeking refunds for victims along with punitive penalties.

Brazil loses its only registrar as UOL bows out

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2017, Domain Registrars

There are now no ICANN-accredited registrars in Brazil, following the termination of Universo Online’s contract this week.

I understand the agreement was ended at UOL’s request. It’s not a case of it breaching its contract.

UOL is a big deal in Brazil, getting beaten in the eyeballs stakes only by the likes of Google and Facebook, but as a registrar it wasn’t in the top 100 globally.

It had a little over 100,000 gTLD domains under management at the last count, with a peak over the last five years of roughly 200,000

I hear that these remaining domains will be transferred to Tucows’ accreditation.

Brazil has had at least four registrars, including UOL, over the years.

Countries roughly the same size as Brazil by population (over 200 million) include Nigeria and Pakistan, each of which still have one active registrar.

There are 10 contracted registries, managing nine 2012-round new gTLDs, in Brazil.

GoDaddy renewal revamp “unrelated” to domainer auction outrage

Kevin Murphy, November 21, 2017, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has made some big changes to how it handles expired domain names, but denied the changes are related to domainer outrage today about “fake” auctions.

The market-leading registrar today said that it has reduced the period post-expiration during which registrants can recover their names from 42 days to 30. After day 30, registrants will no longer be able to renew or transfer affected names.

GoDaddy is also going to start cutting off customers’ MX records five days after expiry. This way, if they’re only using their domain for email, they will notice the interruption. Previously, the company did not cut off MX records.

The changes were first reported at DomainInvesting.com and subsequently confirmed by a GoDaddy spokesperson.

One impact of this will be to reduce confusion when GoDaddy puts expired domains up for auction when it’s still possible for the original registrant reclaim them, which has been the cause of complaints from prominent domain investors this week.

As DomaingGang reported yesterday, self-proclaimed “Domain King” Rick Schwartz bought the domain GoDaddyBlows.com in order to register his disgust with the practice.

Konstantinos Zournas of OnlineDomain followed up with a critique of his own today.

But the GoDaddy spokesperson denied the changes are being made in response to this week’s flak.

“This is unrelated to any events in the aftermarket,” he said. “We’ve been working on this policy for more than a year.”

He said the changes are a case of GoDaddy “optimizing our systems and processes”. The company ran an audit of when customers were renewing and found that fewer than 1% of names were renewed between days 30 and 42 following expiration, he said.

GoDaddy renews about 2.5 million domains per month in just the gTLDs it carries, according to my records, so a full 1% would equal roughly 25,000 names per month or 300,000 per year. But the company spokesperson said the actual number “quite a bit less” than that.

How many of these renewals are genuinely forgetful registrants and how many are people attempting to exploit the auction system is not known.

The changes will come into effect December 4. The news broke today because GoDaddy has started notifying its high-volume customers.

ICANN terminates 450 drop-catch registrars

Kevin Murphy, November 6, 2017, Domain Registrars

Almost 450 registrars have lost their ICANN accreditations in recent days, fulfilling predictions of a downturn in the domain name drop-catch market.

By my reckoning, 448 registrars have been terminated in the last week, all of them apparently shells operated by Pheenix, one of the big three drop-catching firms.

Basically, Pheenix has dumped about 90% of its portfolio of accreditations, about 300 of which are less than a year old.

It also means ICANN has lost about 15% of its fee-paying registrars.

Pheenix has saved itself at least $1.2 million in ICANN’s fixed accreditation fees, not including the variable and transaction-based fees.

It has about 50 registrars left in its stable.

The terminated registrars are all either numbered LLCs — “Everest [1-100] LLC” for example — or named after random historical or fictional characters or magic swords.

The move is not unexpected. ICANN predicted it would lose 750 registrars when it compiled its fiscal 2018 budget.

VP Cyrus Namazi said back in July that the drop-catching market is not big enough to support the many hundreds of shell registrars that Pheenix, along with rivals SnapNames/Namejet and DropCatch.com, have created over the last few years.

The downturn, Namazi said back then, is material to ICANN’s budget. I estimated at the time that roughly two thirds of ICANN’s accredited registrar base belonged to the three main drop-catch firms.

Another theory doing the rounds, after Domain Name Wire spotted a Verisign patent filing covering a system for detecting and mitigating “registrar collusion” in the space, is that Verisign is due to shake up the .com drop-catch market with some kind of centralized service.

ICANN reckoned it would start losing registrars in October at a rate of about 250 per quarter, which seems to be playing out as predicted, so the purge has likely only just begun.

Hammock swings from Rightside to MarkMonitor

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2017, Domain Registrars

Statton Hammock has joined brand protection registrar MarkMonitor as its new vice president of global policy and industry development.

He was most recently VP of business and legal affairs at Rightside, the portfolio gTLD registry that got acquired by Donuts in July. He spent four years there.

The new gig sounds like a broad brief. In a press release, MarkMonitor said Hammock will oversee “the development and execution of MarkMonitor’s global policy, thought leadership, business development and awareness strategy”.

MarkMonitor nowadays is a business of Clarivate Analytics under president Chris Veator, who started at the company in July.