Web owners charged for .uk domains they didn’t know they had.
Two of THE biggest web domain registrars have been accused of’ trying to charge customers for domains they didn’t even order.
Customers of 123 Reg and Namesco Were shocked to see they had been automatically allocated additional domain names. and in some cases were asked to pay for them.
The issue follows the introduction of the second-level .uk domain, which Nominet launched back in 2014, adding to the third-level .co.uk and .org .uk domains that were Britain’s go-to addresses, Amid tears that domain owners could be targeted by cybersquatters gobbling up the .uk version of their brand.
Nominet allowed anyone with a .co.uk domain to register the .uk version of their name for free for two years. Both 123 Reg and Namesco took this as a green light to automatically register a corresponding .uk domain for each address.
without even asking customers if they wanted them, The issue is now coming to a head because the free period has come to an end, with the registrars now charging customers for domains they didn’t order in the first place.
Nat Yates — who runs the London Calling Blog – was one of the 123 Reg customers who were caught unawares. She discovered that she had been given web addresses ending in .uk that mirrored her .co.uk sites.
👉 “It is horribly underhand and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t seen an article online,” Yates told. “l do vaguely remember an email on the topic back in 2017, but my impression was (and maybe I misunderstood) we can do this if you want— not We will do this whether you want it or not.
123 Reg initially sent emails to customers, telling them they would be charged for the .uk domains that had been automatically registered in their name.
The company swiftly back-pedalled. claiming it had never intended to start taking money from customer accounts and that the proposed changes were an internal error. “Our policy remains that if a customer hasn’t explicitly opted-in and activated their .uk domain name, they will not be charged,” the company said in a statement -Some customers received an erroneous email which stated that these domains would be automatically renewed and we would attempt to take payment. This is not the case.-
Namesco told us it had been wrongly accused of taking payments for the .uk names and that nobody had been charged for domains they haven’t activated, the company had designed its system so customers would have to set up a new payment mechanism before .uk domains could be billed.
It did, however, admit that some customers had “mistakenly paid for a .uk domain thinking they were actually renewing their .co.uk domains”. Experts say that the domain registrars have handled the situation poorly.
“It all looks like a bit of a mess, said Neil Brown, a lawyer who runs technology specialist law firm Decoded Legal. “Customers who have not taken steps to register a .uk are objecting – rightly. in my humble opinion – to paying for something they didn’t request.”
Licence to print money
The concept of .uk domains faced criticism from the outset, with some believing it was little more than a licence to print money for the domain registrars and Nominet, who would cash in on customers keen to protect their brand position across all of the UK domains.
A spokesperson for one UK registrar, who asked not to be named, told us: “Essentially it doubles costs for UK domains for businesses, as you have to buy the .uk to go with your .co-uk for fear Of someone else taking it and it being so easily confused.”
“Of course, revenues at Nominetgo up. so do the performance bonuses.
Nominet was keen to drive uptake during the five-year registration grace period where domains were protected, with special offers and allowances for registrars acting on their customers’ behalf.
The company denies .uk was designed purely to boost revenue. Nominet claims that as a company limited by guarantee it can’t pay profit to its members, so money is not its motivation.
Nevertheless, staff payments have increased from million in 2014 to £18.3 million in Nominet charges a wholesale price of £3.75/year for .uk domains and by the end of August 2019 there were 3,687.040 active registrations, adding £13.8 million to the firm’s annual revenue.
“We ran promotions to encourage registrars to reach out to their customers (with free offers), ” said Eleanor Bradley, MD of registry solutions and public benefit at Nominet.
“The point of this was not to maximise the number of domains registered but to make sure that if people wanted the domain they could get it.
“We let registrars register domains on behalf Of their clients, Bradley added.