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Domain Registration, when it goes bad.

Domain Registration, when it goes bad.

I was prompted to write this post based on a new client that we recently picked up because of another Web Design/Development company had gone into Liquidation. The key to this is in the domain registration, who is the legal owner of a domain name and what is the process if you find that you are not the legal owner of your domain?

Yes that is right, are you actually the legal owner of your domain? For years we have seen companies register domains on behalf of clients in their own details, there is nothing wrong with a company doing the process on your behalf, where it is professionally wrong is when they register that domain in their own details. According to the Domain Name Commision a person/company that registered the domain is the legal owner of the domain, however, it is not considered good practice for web designers, agencies and developers to do this. Why? Well firstly as a company that registers domains for others, you become responsible for the domain and the content displayed on the website, in other words, if there is a legal dispute they could well come after you as the owner of the domain! So is it a wise thing to do? We don’t believe so and we think that you are taking the control away from your client if you have the domain in the details of your company. You may think this gives you control and maybe even a little bit of power over the client because you technically own the domain, well we think this is bad practice and shouldn’t be done, so it is important for customers to know their rights in these situations.

The Hassel

Now, what happens if you realise your domain name isn’t registered in your name? Well hopefully it is an oversight from the company you are dealing with and they organise to correct this with you, lets hope! I have heard of companies holding businesses to ransom over the ownership of the domain due to a communication breakdown or a soured relationship. This is where the hassle comes into play. Your first step if you are having issues resolving ownership over your domain name is to first make contact with the DNC, Domain Name Commission, (This only applies to NZ TLD Domains) at https://dnc.org.nz, you then need to make a complaint, or have your representative make this complaint. The process is to fill out a form explaining why there is a dispute with the domain in detail. You then have to provide the DNC with 4 signed copies, so that each party can receive a copy of the complaint. Then depending on the nature of the complaint the DNC can make a quick decision and have the situation corrected through mediators, this normally happens when it is extremely clear who has actual ownership of the domain and it goes undisputed. When it’s not clear the mediation process goes through to an expert to be determined for a fee of $2000 + GST, and if appealed the costs escalate to $7200 + GST for the person making the appeal.  In our case it is pretty straightforward, there are no trademarks or intellectual property issues to deal with, so the process should stop at Level One of the dispute process. See https://dnc.org.nz/drs/the-process for more information.

The problem with this process is the time it takes and the stress it has for the business owner. It is a process that can normally be fixed by the company who has made the oversight very easily if that is the case. However, what happens when the company you have dealt with has gone into Liquidation? Well, this is a real first for us and right now it is looking like it’s going to be a very slow process to get the results we are wanting so we can push forward for the client.  The main issue right now is the client also has no access to the web hosting details or the CMS login details, this means that their entire online business is stuck in a process of unknowns.  We have made contact with the liquidators to see what steps need to be taken, as I guess the liquidators become the new owners of the clients in this case. (Still waiting to hear the results from the Liquidator) All services are operating but the fear here, of course, is for how long? With no access, there is not a lot that happens, until we know further details.  So my message to anyone reading this today is don’t be in this position.

Key things to note:

  1. If a representative is registering your domain on your behalf, make sure it goes in your name. Also, make sure you have login details to the registrar. Ask this question first, if they say they can’t provide you with this access then my suggestion is to pull out at that point.
  2. Make sure you have the FTP details of the hosting services, and if a CMS system, make sure you have the login details to access your platform.

When these processes become’s difficult.

It is important to note that when you are using a CMS system that is a company controlled system for all users, you will not be able to gain FTP details to the hosting account. Though you may have access to the web console (CMS) system, there won’t be a lot that you can do with this system if a company goes into liquidation. Why? Because it can’t simply be moved, you will have to start again! This is why some CMS systems are better than others because if it all goes bad and you have all the above details, including ownership of the domain, you can easily move your services to another provider and carry on.

If you find yourself in this position and are unsure what steps to take, or even need some guidance, then make contact with us through our contact page.

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