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101domain shifts blame to Google as premium buyers offered 50% discount

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2014, Domain Registrars

101domain has offered a 50% discount to customers that were sold premium new gTLD domains for a vastly reduced price, and has tried to shift some of the blame to the registry, Google.

The offer was made in a letter (pdf) to affected registrants — previously hit with delayed invoices for thousands of dollars for domains they bought for $12.99 — sent yesterday.

It indicates that the registrar is prepared to eat at least part of its pricing error on both first-year registrations and subsequent annual renewals.

101domain told customers:

  • You now have until June 23, 2014 to make a decision whether to delete the name or pay for the premium name.
  • If you want to keep the name(s), 101domain will offer you a 50% discount on the first year premium price and a 25% discount on premium annual renewals.
  • If you give up your name(s), we will give you a credit on 101domain.com for any future purchases equal to 25% of the price of the premium name.

Previously, affected registrants had been told to pay up or have their domains deleted the following day.

As we reported last week, almost 50 domains in Google’s .みんな (“.everyone”) were sold for $12.99, despite some being earmarked by the registry as “premiums” with annual fees of up to $7,000.

In its letter to customers yesterday, 101domain characterized Google’s system for handling premiums as non-standard and difficult for registrars to work with.

Google’s list of premium names was circulated to registrars via an email, and the registry had no EPP commands for checking out whether a name was premium in real-time, the registrar says.

There was also no way for registrars to prevent the registration of premiums and no way to check with the registry for premium sales, it added.

It seems clear from the letter that the discounts now on offer mean that if registrants choose to keep their names they’ll be getting them at less than the registry fee — 101domain will eat the difference.

We contacted Google and requested them to work with us on the matter since we felt strongly that both sides were responsible to right the situation. Google offered no assistance other than extending the date to delete the names — telling us it was our problem.

Despite this seemingly generous response to domainer outrage, at the least one affected customer is not impressed.

In an email to DI last night the original registrant that first alerted us to the pricing problem described the latest 101domain offer as “lame”.

Guy hit with $1,600 bill a month after registering “premium” name for $12.99

Kevin Murphy, April 23, 2014, Domain Registrars

101domain has sent out almost 50 invoices, believed to total many thousands of dollars, to customers who had bought “premium” domain names for $12.99 well over a month ago.

One DI reader, who said he’d rather not be named, received a bill from the registrar today for $1587.01 for a .みんな domain name he hand-registered March 10 for the base fee of $12.99.

The email from 101domain stated that unless he pays the bill by 5pm PST tomorrow, his domain will be deleted:

It has come to our attention that the .みんな registry considers certain name(s) that you have registered with us as premium names and that there were some intermittent pricing errors on our website allowing you to purchase these name(s) at regular pricing. The cause of this error has been resolved and we sincerely apologize for the error.

In order to correct these pricing errors, the Registry has granted us the option to delete these names if we are unable to collect the premium pricing from our customers.

Due to a short deadline, payment must be received by Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5pm PST in order for deletion of the name not to occur. In the event that payment isn’t received by Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5pm PST the domain name(s) will be deleted, released back into the pool of available domain names, and any payments previously received for the domain names will be fully refunded to you.

The registrar offered a full refund of the $12.99 and a 20% discount coupon as compensation.

“I am not sure what’s the legal status of this,” the registrant told DI. “Also asking for this a more than a month later (purchased on 10th of March), besides being not cool, is just wrong.”

.みんな is one of Google’s new gTLDs. It’s Japanese for “everyone”.

101domain COO Anthony Beltran told DI that “fewer than 50” names were affected by the pricing error, all of them in .みんな.

“Literally every registry is doing things differently, but we have committed to offering them as our customers overwhelmingly demand them,” he said. “Most of them understand, as early adopters, there will be occasional issues, and our disclaimers and T&Cs speak to this.”

He offered the following explanation for the error:

In order to offer pre-paid orders, 101domain’s practice is to put up pricing as soon as it is confirmed and as soon as we receive lists of premium names, reserved names, and name collisions from a registry. This is generally well before EPP is available so there is no live domain:check. Our search queries these lists internally to offer accurate pricing well before most other registrars do so that our clients are well ahead of the curve with plenty of time to research and submit orders. Mistakes do rarely occur; some premium lists are fluid, complications have been introduced with SEDO and AFTERNIC getting exclusive listings of premium names (while we have access through their distribution channels like SEDO MLS), or names are snapped up in Sunrise, EAP, or Landrush. We will typically notify clients prior to names becoming active of any changes in pricing or availability and promptly refund in full if requested. With this TLD, this did not happen properly unfortunately.

Nobody’s claiming Google did anything wrong.

I’m not sure what American or Californian consumer protection law says about this kind of thing, but it is a quite startling situation.

Are there any other fields of commerce where you can be billed a month later because a retailer got confused about its wholesale prices?

Google giving away 5,000 free new gTLD domains

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Google is giving away free .みんな domains.

According to a company spokesperson, the first 5,000 people to submit a .みんな web site idea via a campaign web site will receive a coupon for a free one-year registration in the new namespace.

The offer expires April 5.

The regular retail price at registrars appears to be about $13 a year.

.みんな means “everyone” in Japanese and is apparently pronounced “.minna”. It’s the second IDN gTLD to go to general availability so far, and currently has roughly 2,500 registered names.

The web site appears to show examples of domains that are being registered under the program, as well as commentary from something called Google+, which appears to be some kind of social network.

Google’s first new gTLD racks up 2,300 domains

Google’s Charleston Road Registry reached 2,300 .みんな domain names on the new gTLD’s first day of general availability, immediately making it the biggest IDN gTLD by volume so far.

The string is Japanese for “everyone”. As you might expect, it’s an unrestricted space.

About 230 names — 10% of the TLD — are non-IDNs. I believe the number also includes some sunrise registrations.

It actually went into GA on Tuesday, but data was not available yesterday.

While it’s not in the same ballpark as the likes of .guru, it nevertheless overtook the only other IDN gTLD to launch so far, dotShabaka’s شبكة. (Arabic for “web”), which has 1,643 names.

Google sold the names via 17 accredited registrars, only one of which appears to be Japanese. The list excludes most of the biggest registrars.

.みんな is unusual in that Google intends to run its Trademark Claims service forever, rather than turning it off after the 90 days required by its Registry Agreement with ICANN.

Google’s first new gTLD hits the root

Kevin Murphy, November 28, 2013, Domain Registries

Google has become the latest new gTLD registry with a string live in the DNS root.

Its .みんな — Japanese for “everyone” — was delegated by ICANN last night. The URL nic.みんな resolves already to charlestonroadregistry.com, the name of Google’s registry subsidiary.

Google plans to operate it as an open, unrestricted namespace, aimed at Japanese-speaking registrants.

It’s the fifth internationalized domain name to go live and one of only three IDN applications from Google.

Google has 96 more active new gTLD applications, 57 of which are contested.