DOMAIN SLAMMING

10. June 2008, 13:17 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Just when one thinks a vile practice has disappeared it resurfaces its ugly head. I'm talking about “Domain Slamming”. This is the practice of trying to trick domain name holders to switch domain registrars by feeding off FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and the impression of official communications. Well, it’s back.

I first experienced this about a year after I registered my first dot-net domain back in 2000. I received a very official looking letter that, unless read carefully, and with some skepticism, looked very much like an official invoice for a required service. In fact, it was nothing of the kind. It was a solicitation to switch my domain registrar, and at about twice the price at that. Needless to say, the letter was promptly relegated to the waste basket.

I received one the following year as well, which met the same fate, but after that heard nothing. Well, it seems the practice has becoming more pronounced once again - and by the same company. I can only conclude that it is sheer desperation as more and more registrars compete at lower price points for the domain owners’ dollars. In the process some of the unproven or disreputable operations seem to want a quick way to acquire more customers. The effect is the same, the use of what I, and many others, consider deceptive, unethical and often borderline fraudulent practices.

In my case, the “invoice/solicitation” was from the Domain Registry of Canada, previously called the Internet Registry of Canada, a “registered business style” of Registration Services Inc. It comes in a brown manila envelope similar to those used by the Government of Canada for official mailings, and include a small Canadian flag in the upper left hand corner giving the appearance to the unwary of an official government agency. The enclosure lists your domain, registry details and expiration date (in the case of my most recent copy, a full 6 months in advance). This piece of mail then warns you that you must “protect your domain” and insinuates that the Domain Registry Of Canada is an official or safe place. Of course, it is done to lure you and their website (droc.ca - I won't deign to provide them a link back) and to use their services. There is also a Domain Registry of America version.

They were so persistent in mailings several years ago that the Canadian Government Competition Bureau issued an advisory, a warning to businesses and consumers back when they were calling themselves “The Internet Registry of Canada”. They also made news in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The new form does state, once you wade through marketing hype, that it is not a bill but not before trying to create unease. They are not alone in this practice unfortunately. Verisign was doing the same thing back in 2002.

Numerous forums, websites and web logs have picked up on this “scam” over the years and yet perhaps the saddest part of this situation, is that many people fall for this every year. I consider it a scam though it is technically perfectly legal - then again so is 29.9% interest rates on credit cards though 30% is illegal. What happens when you pay their “invoice” is that it triggers a transfer of your domain name, from your current registrar to, in this case, the Domain Registry of Canada. This can often lead to a malfunctioning web site and e-mail service, due to unexpected DNS changes.

Personally I think any registrar that engages in this practice should have their registrar licences from ICANN/CIRA etc. pulled. But in this imperfect world where money is almighty that’s just not going to happen.

Oh, and by the way, their registration fee is almost three times what my current registrar charges! I guess they think they are in competition with Network Solutions for the “most expensive registrar” award. As usual caveat emptor — let the buyer beware!

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Categories: ,
Keywords: scam,domain slamming,domain registry of canada,domain registry of america,unethical,fraudulent,deceptive

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