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Transferring Domains from Uncooperative Registrar? 90

Posted by Cliff
from the time-for-a-good-lawyer dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "What do you do when your registrar hangs you out to dry? I have a domain that was registered with a registrar that no longer exists. The original registrar was bought out by another, who is a reseller for a third registrar. After the buyout they never got my domain to work properly with their billing system, with the result that I cannot transfer the domain (they say they cannot release registrar-lock) and cannot renew it via their online system, meaning that I have to call them on the phone. Several weeks ago, my registrar took my renewal payment for two years, and charged my credit card, but never renewed the domain. They expired it and redirected the web accesses to their parking page, which consists of spam links. I've emailed and called them several times since, with the result that they no longer answer my email or phone calls. I can't find any clear documentation at ICANN about this, as it all seems to be geared toward transfers from uncooperative web hosts or copyright holders. Do I have any recourse in this case, or am I simply screwed?"
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Transferring Domains from Uncooperative Registrar?

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  • contact ICANN (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Friday October 27, 2006 @05:50PM (#16616780) Homepage
    Give them documentation for the credit card charge and for your prior ownership; hopefully they'll restore your ownership and yank that registrar's license.
    • by egarland (120202) on Friday October 27, 2006 @06:29PM (#16617316)
      Charging you for services and then not providing them is something credit card companies go after vigorously. Call your credit card company and complain. Most likely a significant percentage of their income comes in through credit cards and having Visa or MasterCard blacklist them would be something that would impact them deeply so when their investigator starts poking into things they'll pay attention.

      At the very least you should be able to get your renewal fee back.
      • Please mod parent up, he's right on the ball with this. The only problem is that even if he can get the money back (highly likely), he still won't have the domain.
      • Most likely a significant percentage of their income comes in through credit cards and having Visa or MasterCard blacklist them would be something that would impact them deeply so when their investigator starts poking into things they'll pay attention.

        I speculate that it is highly unlikely that MasterCard or Visa will blacklist the merchant. As long as they can grab the amount in dispute and their $20-$40 non-refundable "dispute fee," they are happy.

        I'd like to not speculate and actually cite something. Unf

        • by gameforge (965493)

          Unfortunately the exact rules that govern chargebacks in MasterCard and Visa are kept secret, even from merchants.

          What do you mean, exactly? How could you define one universal set of rules that would predict the chargeback decision in every case?

          It seems to me that even Visa and MasterCard probably don't have an exact, defined set of rules anywhere, but rather have people that evaluate each case individually on the legal, customer, merchant, and internal axes, all seperate from each other, and render a dec

        • Mastercard takes a dim view of this sort of behavior. Once will not lose you a merchant account, but do you really think there's only one complainant?
      • If all that the credit card does is chargeback what you paid for the name to the registrar, then you've gotten $10-20 back and lost your domain name to somebody that you might have mildly annoyed. If you can convince them to stop paying anything to the registrar, that's a different level of winningness, but it's typically hard to get there.

        Small claims court is more likely to get your domain back, but that may also depend on the contract you've got with the registrar.

      • That's a horrible idea. I used to work at Go Daddy, their policy for chargebacks is to:
        1. Mark the card as fraudulent.
        2. Place a hold on the domain and/or cancel it.

        I'd imagine many other registrars have the same policy.

        Now, you probably don't know this but domains have about 90 days from the day they expire until someone can actually buy them again. So if this poor guy wants to lose the usefulness of his domain for 90 days (potentially more, up to 2 years) then he should indeed do a chargeback. Hell, if he
        • So your saying that it's Go Daddy's, and probably most registrars policy, to receive money and fail to provide the services agreed to, to lie to their credit card companies and probably commit credit defamation, then to steal the domain name in a cyber-salted earth reprisal because the victim had the audacity to retaliate?
      • by rf0 (159958)
        If you want just the money speak to your bank about a chargeback although it won't get your domain back. The other choice is you can try to catch the domain if/when it drops. Did the registrar renew it or did it get picked up by a linking organisation?
    • by billstewart (78916) on Friday October 27, 2006 @11:13PM (#16619458) Journal
      You might try contacing whoever's running the nameserver that's got your domain on it to point it at your own servers, if they're not the same as the miscreants.


      ICANN FAQ on Domain Registrar Problems [icann.org].


      ICANN Transfer Policies [icann.org]


      ICANN Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy. [icann.org]


      You may end up having to pay the miscreants a transfer fee. They do have to release registrar locks in a reasonable time with some reasonable process, though they can also hold the domain for 60 days after registration.

      • You might try contacing whoever's running the nameserver that's got your domain on it to point it at your own servers, if they're not the same as the miscreants.

        Good idea. Hopefully your domain is not on the registrar's nameservers.

        You may end up having to pay the miscreants a transfer fee.

        You will not pay the losing registrar anything. You only have to pay the new registrar who is gaining the domain.

        They do have to release registrar locks in a reasonable time with some reasonable process.

        Cor

      • by kimvette (919543)
        ICANN is your very best resource in these instances. Not only will you get your domain back, but the misbehaving registrar stands a very good chance of getting their license revoked, especially if it's the likes of enom who is notorious for doing this to their affiliates when their affiliates decide to become accredited registrars themselves. I went through this myself with a number of domains and was getting fed up to the point where I was considering going to ICANN but knew that the "registrar" we registe
    • I would suggest sending an email or writing a letter and making sure that ICANN receives a copy. First and foremost, ICANN must be aware of the issue so that they can be pressured to act. Ultimately, they are the only ones who have authority over the registrars.
  • by TLouden (677335) on Friday October 27, 2006 @06:02PM (#16616958)
    I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering who the registrar is
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by 8-bitDesigner (980672)
      eNom, perchance? I've got a client who had the same thing happen to their domain, and every attempt to contact the registrar has just flat out failed, including calling the phone number attached to the bloody Whois record.

      Hell, I just got the annual "Update your records!" email from a half-dozen registrars at ICANN, and I can't help but find the irony in a registrar having inaccurate Whois records.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I would also agree on blaming eNom. I was frequenting an online forum. They took the domain down exactly one year before it actually expires. The owner took two weeks to get things back to normal with another registrar.
    • by Qzukk (229616)
      After that other woman got sued [slashdot.org] for complaining on the internet and lost $11 million dollars, perhaps its best for the person asking that he/she didn't say.

      Sucks for the rest of us who would be warned away from whatever scummy registrar this is, though.
      • by Elshar (232380)
        That ruling really has nothing to do with the current situation. That case has to do with libel, and the fact that you can't just go around saying horrible stuff about people without being able to backup your claims.

        In otherwords, I can't call you a thief, rapist, child molester unless you actually WERE all of those things. If you were, then I could freely go about telling everyone about it.

        In this case, he's within his rights to say that the registrar of his domain is incompetent, and has taken his money w
        • by DavidTC (10147)

          He can say they're incompetent anyway, that's an opinion and thus cannot be libel.

          As for not rendering services paid for, if he paid by credit card he's got a pretty good record that he did pay, and thus I say go for it, name names.

        • by shaitand (626655)
          Since this is a US forum and a US TLD I will make the assumption that the story poster is in the US. In the US truth is not a guarantee of immunity from slander suits. In most other nations the slander being truthful guantees you will win the case but not here. In the US you can still be nailed if the slander resulted in damages, even if what you said is provably true.
          • by grimarr (223895)
            In the US truth is not a guarantee of immunity from slander


            That's not the way I learned it, and Wikipedia agrees. In the US, a true statement is not defamatory.
            • by shaitand (626655)
              IANAL nor do I claim any special knowledge on the topic. I do know the discussion has come up on Slashdot before and it appeared the general consensus among the IAAL's was that if you make a true statement and that statement causes $50,000 in damages to me then you are open to a lawsuit from me. The statement being true probably makes you safe but my understanding is that in the US a judge decides the point rather than a law that explicitly protects those making true statements.
              • In Britain, whose libel law I'm more familiar with, truth is not an absolute defense. I raised this on a previous occasion and pointed out, for example, that describing someone as "drunk" who has no (proven and fair) reputation for alcoholism has, in the past, caused massive wins at the libel courts for the "accused drunks", even when said state of being was proven with witnesses. (The satirical magazine Private Eye uses the phrase "Tired and emotional" instead as a result, although arguably that's no less


  • Try to get the credit charge reversed. And go fight for it!

    Best of luck.

    Ratboy
  • Get a lawyer (Score:5, Informative)

    by mysidia (191772) on Friday October 27, 2006 @06:07PM (#16617026)

    I don't think ICANN will offer you much recourse, and you may need to take legal action. Hence I say, hire a real lawyer to advise you properly.

    In my estimation, you will probably be needing to contact them by sending a letter through certified mail, include a notice of their breach of the agreement, and demand they cooperate with your transfer of registration to alternative registrar, include the details.

    Put them on official notice ASAP, spell out the details of how they are breaking your agreement to renew the domain, and what you demand of them immediately, and in the future, so they cannot claim ignorance, or that they "never received the message".

    And be prepared to sue the registrar, if they won't make you whole. Bottom line: by expiring your domain, they fail to honor an agreement. By interfering with the proper transfer of your domain, they are injuring you.

    • by brokenin2 (103006) *
      Of course, in the time it takes for all this to happen, they'll probably expire you the rest of the way, and release the domain because of non-payment.

      Then you can just pick it up via a decent registrar instead, and get your $$ back via your credit card company.

      ...and in response to someone else's message: You're correct. You are not the only one wondering which registrar we're talking about here.

    • This is exactly the sort of thing that small claims court was setup to handle. For claims under 2,000 dollars ish (varies by state / conditions) and a 15 dollar filing fee, you can bring a case against someone without a lawyer. This will involve a letter sent by certified mail to the registrar. You then both bring your cases before a judge and argue them in plain english.

      If you have a site with a higher value, you may exceed the maximum damages limit. At that point you'd need a real lawyer and a full le
  • The first thing you do is dispute the charges with your credit card company. If they accepted the payment but didn't renew your domain, they took your money under false pretenses, and could be charged with fraud. (IANAL, so check with your friendly neighborhood landshark before trying to press charges.) Even if they can't be charged, you don't have to pay until the dispute is resolved. Then, if they want to keep your money (and they will) they either have to give you back your domain or make the credit
  • Snipe it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by invisik (227250) on Friday October 27, 2006 @06:16PM (#16617134) Homepage
    Reverse the charges on your credit card asap. Then, let your domain expire and snipe your own domain back with another registrar.

    http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/sDefinitio n/0,,sid26_gci810538,00.html [techtarget.com]

    There is a probability that it won't work, but there's not much else to do without a team of lawyers.

    Good luck.

    -m
    • Sadly, certain registrars [enom.com] have a nasty habit of throwing domains into an "Extended Grace Period" which allows them to retain control of the domain after your registration has lapsed, supposedly to put a hold on domain sniping. Well, it means that a less than scrupulous registrar can put language into their registration contract allowing them to purchase the domain once it expires, at which point they either put it up for auction or load it with link-farms.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mysidia (191772)

      Actually.. I think disputing the charges should be done as a last resort, if you decide it is futile, and you will just surrender the domain (allow them to expire it).

      Once you succeed with a dispute, you will no longer have paid for the very domain you didn't want expired; you might have a heck of a time convincing a judge that you should get to keep both the domain and the money.

      It may be more beneficial even to do research and prepare the paperwork + evidence gathering yourself, to petition for

      • by hazem (472289)
        Actually.. I think disputing the charges should be done as a last resort, if you decide it is futile, and you will just surrender the domain (allow them to expire it).

        You only have 60 days from the transaction date to dispute the charge. If you must wait, wait till close to that date then file with the credit card company in writing. Yout have to get this started.

        The credit card company traditionally asks the company if what you say is true and takes their word for it... and denies you in round one. But
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by smbarbour (893880)
          As someone who works in the credit card industry, I have some insight into the process. (I'm in IT, and as such, for whatever reason, I'm somehow expected to know everything. It's "information" after all.)

          The cardholder first contacts his or her issuer (the cardholder's processor) to dispute the charge. Then, the issuer initiates a retrieval request on the transaction. The acquirer (the merchant's processor), receives the retrieval request and contacts the merchant for information on the transaction (The
    • by Profound (50789)
      >>>> my registrar took my renewal payment for two years
      >>let your domain expire and snipe your own domain back

      So your solution is to let him wait TWO YEARS? That's an awfully long time for internet visitors to remember.
  • by Banner (17158) on Friday October 27, 2006 @06:17PM (#16617158) Journal
    A friend of mine went through something like this. He registered his domains under his internet nickname, but paid under his real name. Now they won't allow him to do anything unless he comes up with a legal ID that has his nickname on it. They don't care that he was paying with his legal name for the last X years.

    So he's waiting for the domain to expire so he can pick it up under his real name. The registar (godaddy) refuses to help at all and he feels a lawyer is a waste of money. So for now he's stuck waiting because godaddy puts all expired domains up for auction for a period of days (registars should NOT be allowed to auction expired domains, conflict of interest - especially when they're causing the expiration).

    I suspect many of the people out there who are currently parking domains and putting them up for auction are probably the registars, because it doesn't appear that they have to pay to register open domains, so why not speculate if it's free?

    I'm not so sure that the new system is cheaper or easier than the old one. Back in the old days at least a phone call always could clear up any problems.
    • by bsharitt (580506)
      That one is kind of your friends fault for entering into a business transaction under a false name. That's just a stupid move.
      • by Banner (17158)
        No, it's a legal alias, but he has to get an actual -ID- showing it before he can get them to cooperate. Thing is, originally you were allowed to use Aliases, as long as you paid under a legal name. He did that. They're no longer accepting that however.
        • by TFGeditor (737839)
          "...it's a legal alias, but he has to get an actual -ID- showing it before he can get them to cooperate."

          I am sure the procedure varies from state to state, but in Texas, all you have to do is go to the county clerk's office and file an Assumed Name Certificate, which indicates that John Doe (that's you) is Doing Business As (DBA) Jane Smith. A certified copy of the filed certificate is official ID proving you are Jane Smith. It also helps to include a reference to this on business documents and financial t
    • Now they won't allow him to do anything unless he comes up with a legal ID that has his nickname on it. They don't care that he was paying with his legal name for the last X years.

      File a "doing business as" or incorporate. The first is pretty cheap in most places; the other may cost a few bucks depending on local law. That will make it legal to business in that name, and GoDaddy will hopefully respect that.
  • This is what happens when you use those cut rate registrars. I'm mean, c'mon. Is the headache really worth saving $2 per year? Domain Discover is your friend!
  • I lost my domain because the company I had my web page through stopped paying for the domain name, or did not renew for some other reason, in the end I found out my domain was expired when I went to my web page and found out it was owned by one of those spam search engine groups that has the the basic premise of your site as the way to feed advertising. The group I had bought the page through said it was my responsibility to re-purchase the domain, even though I had done all the business through them. Whe
  • I'm thinking of grabbing a domain for myself, but I've no idea which registrars are good and which are lousy. What's the market like out there?

    Schwab

    • Personally I dig Dreamhost [dreamhost.com] for most of my domain stuff. They're a web hosting company and exceedingly nice people to work with, and they offer their own domain services as part of the web hosting package.

      If you're not going for hosting alongside your domain, I'd suggest Yahoo [yahoo.com] oddly enough. They're basically just a reseller for Melbourne IT, but they're cheap, and I've had no troubles with them before. They can't handle full-out domain transfers as per my understanding, but have all the standard redirectio

    • Godaddy. I've been using their domain services for years with absolutely no issues. They will even snail mail me a Final Warning if my domain is expiring.
      • They called me on Saturday to thank me for the recent auto-renewal for my domains; asked me if I had intentions of letting another one lapse that's coming due (I'd forgotten; it was my first one through them and I wasn't sure I liked Godaddy, so set it on manual); and asked me if I had any issues, questions or concerns.

        First time I've ever gotten a call from a Registrar, other than that one that called me saying I urgently needed to renew. (Was some other one trying to snipe registrations, like the "Domain
    • by don.g (6394)
      I get my gTLD (i.e. com/net/org/etc) domains from GANDI [gandi.net]. They were recommended by some "domain name buyer's guide" site that now seems to have disappeared, mostly because the first section of their t&cs says "You own the domain name". Alas, many other registrars try to weasel out of saying anything like that.

      Anyway, they've never given me any trouble :-)
    • I use MelbourneIT myself. No, they're not the cheapest, but they are reliable and they do have people you can call if you have problems. Especially if you're in Australia, as that makes them timezone friendly.
      • by bonezed (187343)
        MelbourneIT suck for hosting! When you're website goes down every few weeks you have to wonder what is going on. And their helpdesk is useless; staffed by clueless plebs.
  • by onehalf (948544) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:47PM (#16618548) Homepage
    "If you ever accidentally drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone." --Jack Handy

    Just replace keys with your domain name.
  • E-Mail Them (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:11PM (#16618708) Homepage Journal
    And CC the ICANN Registrar accreditation board. I did that to a bothersome registrar a while back who couldn't get my domain working with their service (Their software couldn't understand me running my own DNS server.) Honestly I wasn't really expecting anything from them but they refunded my payment and released my domain so that I could re-register it with NSI. As much of a pain in the ass as NSI is, they still seem to be a lot better to deal with than most of their competition (And no I don't work for them or anything.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dizzy8578 (106660) *
      network solutions?

      It took me 7 years to get my email address updated so I could move a domain of to another registrar. I filed changes starting with the text form we all used to use 3 times, used the web forms 4 times and called and faxed letterhead 3 times. I finally got it released by transfering it to a friend in the UK.

      I have no domains on NSI now but I must admint the web interface now, finally works. I am pretty sure it would not be usable without the competition of the cut rate registrars.

      Anyone who
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Oh yeah, don't get me wrong. I lost an awesome domain to those assholes' shennanigans too. NSI isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but on the whole they seem to suck less than the other registrars do. I assume that's because of the extra years of experience they have doing DNS stuff.
    • by kisa2000 (766934)
      I would agree. A few years ago, like many people, I registered a domain with NSI. Whilst it was initially a pain to make changes (remember all those pre-formatted emails you used to have to authorise) eventually NSI got the picture and whilst they are probably more expensive than just about every other registrar, they provide service. I have read a few horror stories about some domain registrars, not unsimilar to your own, but whilst nobody comes out and says that they love NSI, I haven't come across any
  • Domain parking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by silas_moeckel (234313) <silas@dsmi[ ]corp.com ['nc-' in gap]> on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:56PM (#16618982) Homepage
    Sounds like your registrar made a deal with vivendi(sp) or similar I worked at a hosting/domain shop and they were very aggressive in wanting to buy a lot of our expiring domains for parking page ads. Look at it this way about half of domains names registered are left to expire, now the ones that had content can make back there registration fee's and more in the next year with search engine spam parking pages and the like, not much more but some. I say this because an expired domain name should go nowhere at all until the mandatory hold by verisign has expired and it is deleted.

    Now with that being said, as long as your contact info is still in whois for the domain you can work with the receiving registrar to get it transfered, I would suggest paying for Verisign or similar as a cut rate registrar isn't gong to spend the time to make 50 cents and you can transfer to a cut rate company after that. If your name isn't on the whois but the object creation date is still when your bought it then it has been stolen check the change logs to see when your name was removed.
  • My worst nightmare (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As the owner of several short dictionary one-word domain names, this has always been one of my nightmares... which is why I was leary of moving away from overpriced NetSol. The $100k retainer registrars must give ICANN doesn't come close to the cost of taking care of their clientele if they go under. The root DNS hijack fiasco a few years ago finally gave me the moral push to begin moving my domains away from them as renuals came up.

    A recent experience has made me rethink my move away from NetSol though...
    • by punkrokk (644392)
      I think Network Solutions has improved tremdously in the past few years, but what drives me nuts, is you have to query thier whois database.
    • I have two paid-up Domains paid 10 years in advance. This simply didn't stop Netwprk Solutions from high-jacking these domains and locking me out. When I complained, they offered to sell my own Domain back to me for $300! I feel ICAAN is remiss in allowing events like this to happen.
  • by Dave Zan (919763) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @12:59AM (#16619948) Homepage
    I'm honestly surprised at many of the answers here. While I understand their feelings about this topic, many of them can actually do more harm than good.

    I'm going to add my answers in the hopes of providing an explanation. Some of you don't have to agree with what I'm about to say, but I assure you this is based on how it works having been on both sides of the fence.

    First, this is a reality each and every one of us has to expect: your provider can be bought out by another. Any business is negotiable, especially if the price is right.

    We've got a lot of Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) going on for the past 2 years. Last I checked one registrar bought about 2-3.

    One problem with these M&As is that things can go haywire when they finally start trying to make domain names with registrar (or reseller) A work with the systems of registrar (or reseller) B. No one knows if extensive testing was done, but this is definitely a requirement to ensure problems are kept to a minimum if not completely eliminated (the latter's better, of course).

    As that reader complained (whoever s/he was), they never got the domain name to work with their systems (especially billing). So the reader couldn't unlock it nor renew or whatever.

    I have an idea who this company is. And their circumstances is rather...unique.

    The reader can complain to ICANN. Although ICANN doesn't get involved in individual customer complaints with registrars, similar to the FTC they monitor registrars' "trends" for any consistent patterns they detect and take it up with them.

    To those who suggested disputing the credit card charges: I hate to say this but that should be a LAST resort. Domain registrars treat credit card disputes and chargebacks VERY seriously (especially fraud cases).

    The moment they receive notice of such, they'll immediately lock up/suspend any domain name account/s whose first and last name matches that of the disputed credit card. I know it's unfair for many of you, but you have to realize that domain registrars, like any other business, have to protect themselves as much as possible.

    Tell you what: if you've got the reader's contact details (or know the reader), ask him/her to contact me via email at DaveZan AT DaveZan DOT com (just change AT to @ and DOT to .). I can't promise miracles (no one can except God), but I can offer suggestions and alternatives based on whatever specific details I'm provided.

    If the registrar's who I think it is, I might even know one of their people. But again, I need specifics.

    Thanks.
    • The OP needs to see this.
  • Isn't it the way you do things in the US?
  • I used have a domain with Joshua Internet - www.joshuainternet.com they were, although it looks like they've been taken over or gone out of business or something. Things were fine for the first year or two and then they turned to crap. They just ignored support emails, as well as requests to send a receipt for my proof of payment for the hosting and I generally couldn't contact them. Even their phones were turned off. Thing was, whereas my own domain, godhatesfrags.com is something I just muck about with, t
  • ICANN is directly responsible to the registrars and not to the third-party resellers of domain names. That being said there is definitely a need for ICANN to check up on the down-the-chain members of the domain name game to make sure the system is functional and honest. Somebody needs to get in gear and stop these many troubles, and ICANN is that organization!

    ICANN should be the "rock" that anchors the whole kit and caboodle of Internet domain names firmly to reality. As the main source of authority conc

  • It's not just disreputable registrars that play games with the transfer system. I've called Network Solutions three times already trying to get them to transfer my domain to Joker. The first time, they blamed it on Joker not submitting the authorization code. The second time, they blamed it on me not replying to the transfer request emails, which I replied to correctly the first time. They also promised that it would work if I had Joker try again. I contacted Joker, and they confirmed that it's all Network
    • by Dave Zan (919763)
      I guess it's easier and more convenient to think Network Solutions is "holding your domain name hostage". But without further specifics, it's really hard to say what is really going on with your case.

      I don't know why you're having that problem. But I'll suggest the following:

      1. Make sure your domain name is eligible for transfer. (e.g. it's paid, email address on record is valid, unlocked, got correct auth code.)

      2. Start and fully confirm the request with the gaining registrar (Joker). Depending on how they

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