Review of the Nominet .uk Registrar Agreement 2013 - 'Accredited Channel Partner' clause 5.3.6

Nominet the UK registry for all domain names ending in .uk is currently consulting on a new registrar agreement. The draft proposed new registrar agreement can be found here. The consultation which we urge you all to reply to is open until 12 September 2013.

In summary Nominet plans to split the registrar base in to three classifications of registrar and to start charging for accreditation:

  1. Self Managed Tag Classification
  2. Channel Partner Tag Classification
  3. Accredited Channel Partner Tag Classification

However it is also proposed the highest “accredited” classification will be given free access to transfer customers expired .uk domains under clause 5.3.6:

5.3.6. You may, no earlier than 30 days after the expiry of a domain name on an Accredited Channel Partner Tag, take steps to transfer the domain name into your name, provided that you have previously informed the Registrant that you intend to do this and obtained their explicit consent to your doing so. Even if you transfer a domain name in these circumstances, the original Registrant of the domain name must always retain the right to renew the domain name in question as set out in paragraph 2.1.12 above;

This clause will therefore allow registrars to take control and taste traffic on a customers expired domain from day 30 of expiry and auction it from day 90 of expiry. The bigger the registrar the more expired domains they will have expiring and inturn the bigger the revenue stream. This will leave smaller registrars with very limited access to expired domains (nothing of value) and will put so called “drop catchers” out of business.

Under the current Nominet renewal/transfer policy registrars CAN NOT transfer a .uk domain name to themselves without making a registrant transfer and paying £10 + VAT which the registrant has to agree to.

At present then there is a level playing field and expired .uk domain names become available on a first come first serve basis – we therefore urge you to sign this petition against this proposal.

Nominet currently has the following expiry process:

  • If a renewal request is not received within 30 days of expiry the domain name will be suspended (name servers stop working).
  • Seven days before suspension Nominet will send you a suspension warning.
  • When the domain name is suspended Nominet will send you a suspension notice.
  • After a 60 day suspension period the domain name will be cancelled and will then be immediately available for re-registration by someone else.
  • At any point during the suspension, your registrar can renew the domain name for you and the suspension will be lifted.
  • One final reminder will be sent to you 83 days after the expiry date: this will be seven days before the domain name is cancelled.
  • On 92 days after expiry .uk domains randomly drop and become available on a first come first served basis.

Source: Nominet Renewal Process – July 2013

 

Also to change ownership of a domain name a registrant transfer has to take place:

Transfer a single domain name

If you want to initiate the registrant transfer process, you will need to log in to your Online Services account and select the ‘Registrant Transfer’ service. Please note that this service will cost £10 plus VAT, which can be paid by either the current or new registrant.

Transfer multiple domain names

If all of the domain names you wish to transfer are available when logging into our online service and they are being transferred to the same new registrant, the cost of a mass registrant transfer is £10 plus VAT.

Source: Nominet Registrant transfer process – July 2013

Therefore…

Under Nominet’s proposal and clause 5.3.6 all of the above current policy process would be by-passed after 30 days of expiry – the registrar would be able to take the domain name and taste/monetize the traffic on the domain name. After day 90 the registrar could then sell the domain name at auction.

In 2011 a Nominet policy issue group was formed to look at the .uk expiry policy.  The issue group met 4 times between September 2011 and February 2012.

The domain expiry issue group documents and reports can be found here.

The last meeting report highlited issues with registrars auctioning domain names:

19. The feedback from stakeholders highlighted the potential impact the policy may have on specific sectors of the industry and the first-come-first-served principle. There was concern that some large registrars may retain expired domains and transfer the registration to themselves in order to increase their portfolio. It was suggested that this would result in a reduced number of domain names being deleted and available for re-registration. One participant asserted that this could irreparably damage the dropcatching market.

20. Participants of the group from the registrar community highlighted that in their experience it is difficult to identify a domain with potential value from within the large number of domains under their management. They restated that there is an increased economic return in a customer renewing the domain than the sale of the domain through an auction. In addition, maintaining a healthy customer relationship is more economically beneficial, particularly if the registrant has other domains registered.

21. The group acknowledged that a domain name with perceived value was unlikely to be released back onto the open market as it would either be transferred by the registrar or re-registered by a dropcatcher.

Source: Draft Executive summary of the meeting – 29 February 2012

And the final recommendations included:

Further, some stakeholders called for the auctioning or retaining of domain names by the registrar to be prohibited as permitting registrars to engage in these practices would fundamentally conflict with the principal of first-come-first-served. In their view these practices could also have a detrimental impact on specific segments of the registrar market.
The issue group considered the following options:
a) whether any practices should be prohibited;
b) whether a specified protected period could be offered to the registrant where redemption fees and transferring the registration were prohibited after which time the domain name is subject to the terms and conditions of the registrar;
c) retaining the status quo.
Recommendation: There should be a specified period of time, within the expiry period, where the registrant can renew the domain name without being penalised. In addition during this period the registrar sh
ould not change the WHOIS details or transfer the registration of the domain name to a third party. This period is recommended to be 30 days.

Source: Issue group on Domain Expiry Policy Recommendations

Therefore…

Where did exactly the proposed Nominet ‘Accredited Channel Partner’ perk clause 5.3.6 come from?