Registrars continue to violate the ICANN transfer policy
One of the most frustrating things we deal with is helping customers transfer domain names from other “registrars” (domain name companies) to us. To do this, we ask the old company to release the domain name, and they then have five business days to either release it or reject the transfer.
There’s an obvious potential conflict-of-interest here. An unscrupulous company could easily make more money by rejecting the transfer and forcing the domain name owner to renew it there instead.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a problem. ICANN, the organization that controls domain name policy, requires registrars to follow some very specific rules about transfers (here, with an update here). They list nine specific situations in which a transfer can be rejected, explicitly banning other reasons.
For the most part, this prevents arbitrary rejections. However, there are a few registrars that continue to violate the rules. We’ve complained (again and again) to ICANN about this, but they don’t seem interested, so I’ll mention a few problems here.
Register.com is one frustrating company. The ICANN policy clearly prohibits blocking a transfer of a domain name that has expired but not yet been deleted. Despite that, a customer trying to transfer a three-day-expired Register.com domain name told us last week that they flat out refused to give him the necessary code to allow him to transfer — unless he pays them to renew it first. That isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, either.
GoDaddy (and their reseller arm, Wild West Domains) have a different problem. They still block transfers for 60 days after a registrant contact update, even after the ICANN update specifically prohibited doing so. They freely admit it, too. GoDaddy’s Disputes Manager recently told us that blocking transfers for this reason is okay because “It is not necessary to update registrant information in order to transfer a domain name”. That’s irrelevant, of course; domain name owners are legally required to update registrant information whenever it becomes inaccurate, as ICANN’s update makes clear. GoDaddy can’t legitimately block transfers just because someone followed the legal requirement to update their contact information.
We see a similar problem with many transfers from Network Solutions. They often tell their customers that they’ve rejected the transfer “due to potentially suspicious activity in your account”. When customers ask for details, they’re told that the only “suspicious activity” was a recent contact update. Again, this is exactly what the policy prohibits.
GoDaddy and Network Solutions claim they’re protecting registrants by implementing these security measures, as if a recent contact update is a reliable sign of malicious activity. But many registrants update all their contact information just before they transfer their domain name to make sure the transfer approval notices reach their current address. They just don’t think about until then. It’s perfectly normal.
In addition, the “security measures” probably don’t work anyway. Surely by now any competent domain name thief knows not to update the registrant contact until after they’ve transferred the domain name to another registrar, thus bypassing the “security” completely.
While the GoDaddy and NSI efforts almost certainly have blocked some fraudulent transfers, so would a rule saying “you can’t transfer domain names during months that contain an R”. What really matters is how many legitimate transfers are also blocked. We’ve been on the receiving end of many blocked transfers, and we always try to push the other registrar to provide details about the “security problem” — I’ve spent literally days of my time doing this over the last two years. In every single case, the attempted transfer has turned out to be legitimate.
If GoDaddy and NSI wanted to prove they were protecting registrants, they could share some statistics about how many of the blocked transfers eventually get completed later anyway, vs. how many of the blocked transfers result in complaints or actions by registrants to block future transfers (such as authorization code changes) . We’re pretty sure the former vastly outweighs the latter.
Of course, they won’t share those statistics, because that would reveal how many domain name owners they’re inconveniencing. Instead, they’ll just continue to flout the ICANN transfer rules, and ICANN will continue to do nothing.
(Update: we later obtained these statistics, as detailed in a subsequent post.)
Here’s our pledge to our customers: We’ll always abide by the letter and spirit of the ICANN transfer policies. If you want to transfer your Tiger Technologies domain name elsewhere, we’ll help you, not hinder you. In fact, we’re one of the few companies that publicly explains how to do it. We value your business, but we’ll never force you to stay with us against your will.
(And by the way, we’re not ignoring security, either. Every domain name transfer gets reviewed by a real person here, and if we see anything unusual, we’ll send you an e-mail message and/or give you a call to find out what’s really going on.)