Since the Australian Domain Authority (auDA) took control of domain registration policy in Australia, it has released several consumer alerts about the unscrupulous practices of certain domain name resellers.
Since early 2001, legitimate registrars and resellers have been making complaints about registrars (two in particular) that have been sending unsolicited renewal forms to domain name owners.
This is particularly worrying to consumer authorities, who believe registrants are often tricked into renewing with one supplier under the assumption it is the same supplier they were already signed with. These unsolicited renewal forms also tend to be sent out well before the appropriate period for renewing a domain name (within 60 days before the renewal is due). There lies the possibility that misled consumers may pay inflated prices for the renewal to a company that may not still be operating by the time the domain is actually due for renewal.
The warnings have not curbed the practices of several of these resellers. "I don't think the problem has ever stopped, but the best we can do so far is keep everybody informed," said auDA CEO Chris Disspain.
In response, auDA has sent out a further consumer warning, coupled with a warning to such registrars that it will act decisively in the future on such matters. Under a new regime expected to be completed before the middle of this year, registrars and resellers will have to apply to auDA to become accredited. If approved, they must then engage in a test to ensure they can interface with the central domain registry, currently being built. Once this test is successful, the registrar will be bound by a code of conduct that auDA will enforce.
"If you as a registrar or reseller do not abide by the code of practice under this regime, your status will simply be terminated," Disspain said.
In the meantime, AuDA has made changes to its Registrar Accreditation Application Form to ensure that the registrars it has approved on a provisional basis until the registry and new regime are ready are still abiding by an interim code of conduct. Disspain is concerned that registrars currently operating under this interim accreditation may be informing the market that they are an "AuDA Accredited Registrar".