ICANN Reviews Domain Name Sellers
The key oversight agency for Internet addresses is reviewing the way it oversees
businesses that sell domain names in the wake of financial and operational problems
that left customers of one company nameless.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers already has taken steps
to decertify RegisterFly.com, whose troubles it said resulted in many customers
unable to renew names before they expired or to transfer them to rival registration
companies, known as registrars, as required under ICANN rules.
ICANN said broader changes may be needed to prevent similar troubles in the
future. Paul Levins, the agency's vice president for corporate affairs, said
Monday that the existing rules were written when there was little competition
among registrars, while there are about 860 today.
Paul Twomey, ICANN's chief executive, said the agency wasn't looking to increase
regulation at the expense of competition.
But the agency, he said, wants to explore whether registrar operators must
prove a basic level of skills, whether ICANN must approve any ownership changes
and whether ICANN could create enforcement tools short of yanking a company's
Other questions include whether the agency should develop an escrow system
as a backup repository for data on domain name registrations -- key should a
registrar go out of business or be deemed incompetent. A related issue involves
whether anonymous registrations through proxy services could hinder data recovery.
ICANN plans to start discussions as it meets in Lisbon, Portugal, this week,
although any decisions are likely months away. Other items on the agenda include
a decision on the proposed ".xxx" domain name for pornography sites
and a separate review of whether registration data for domain names should remain
Justin Kulhawick, who runs the RegisterFlies.com site critical of RegisterFly,
praised ICANN for the broader review but said the agency should have acted on
complaints about the company long ago.
He added that he was building a system through which customers could rate registrars
on service and price -- one of the items ICANN is discussing.
According to ICANN, RegisterFly has been having trouble registering and managing
domain names on behalf of their customers, and an ownership dispute that resulted
in a federal lawsuit compounded those problems.
In that dispute, John Naruszewicz accused Kevin Medina of draining RegisterFly
coffers to pay for personal expenses like liposuction, leaving the company unable
to pay bills required to properly register or renew names for their customers.
In a response court filing, Medina disputed Naruszewicz's claims of co-ownership
and accused him of fraud.
A judge ruled March 8 in Medina's favor, giving him full ownership and control
of the company.
The following week, after months of meetings and letter exchanges, ICANN told
Medina it would terminate RegisterFly's accreditation as of this coming Saturday.
ICANN said the company violated ICANN rules in failing to let customers transfer
names and failing to comply with audit requirements.
Phone numbers listed with RegisterFly's registration records were either disconnected
or produced continual busy signals Monday. E-mail inquiries were not immediately
What will happen after Saturday is not clear. RegisterFly can still seek arbitration
or file a lawsuit, ICANN officials say.
ICANN said it may automatically transfer customers to a competing registrar,
but it said it doesn't have all the necessary data, largely because of the use
of anonymous proxy services. Levins said a lawsuit against RegisterFly was possible.