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Message from Ross Rader to Christine Russo

(20 April 2001)
Posted: 27 August 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: Ross Wm. Rader [mailto:ross@tucows.com]
Sent: 20 April, 2001 2:48 PM
To: Christine Russo
Cc: Dan Halloran; Jack Kerins; Brenda Lazare; Tim Denton; Elliot Noss;
Discuss-List@Opensrs. Org; Ross Rader
Subject: Register.com RL&A Violations

Copy via courier

Dear Ms. Russo;

Over the past few months, Tucows has grown aware of increasingly large numbers of inbound transfer requests failing from Register.com (relative to other registrars). Upon further investigation, we discovered that this firm specifically requires that their clients affirmatively acknowledge a transfer of registrars prior to releasing the name to Tucows. If the registrant does not provide a confirmation to Register.com of their intent to transfer their business within a short period of time, Register.com will consistently deny the transfer request.

We have engaged Register.com in discussions with the goal of coming to an agreeable settlement on this matter, but we have failed to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Tucows finds these tactics vexatious, anti-competitive and contrary to the terms of Exhibit B, Policy on Transfer of Sponsorship of Registrations Between Registrars, which is a part of the NSI-Registrar License and Agreement.

The terms of Exhibit B are reproduced for your convenience as an appendix to this letter.

It is evident from a reading of the set of rules that they were designed to facilitate the easy transfer of a registrant's business from one registrar to another. The rules clearly establish that

1. It is the obligation of the gaining registrar to obtain the authorization from the SLD holder, and not the losing registrar;

2. The form of the authorization is at the discretion of each gaining registrar, not the losing registrar;

3. Denials of transfers by the losing registrar must take a certain form, namely: "the Registrar of record shall notify the prospective gaining Registrar that the request was denied and the reason for the denial."

Register.com is neither qualifying its actions nor justifying them in terms consistent with the rules of Exhibit B.

Qualifying the actions of Register.com presents some difficulty, because either they are, or are not, officially denying the request for a transfer. Suppose for a moment that Register.com is not officially denying a transfer, but rather is engaged in an unofficial and unauthorized process designed to prevent transfers by making them as confusing as possible to registrants. This is a plausible description of their behaviour. To deny a transfer one must provide reasons, such as, for instance, confusion as to the identity of the authorizing registrant. As a matter of fact, Register.com is making no claim about confusion as to the identity of the authorizing registrant, nor do they provide any other reason that might justify a denial of the request. Their behavior is unjustified, irregular, not in compliance with Exhibit B, and clearly designed to delay, annoy, or prevent a transfer away from them to a commercial rival.

If Register.com is denying a request, it is obliged to obey the following rule:

"In those instances when the Registrar of record denies the requested change of Registrar, the Registrar of record shall notify the prospective gaining Registrar that the request was denied and the reason for the denial."

Register.com consistently fails to justify its actions as denials, or as anything else, and to provide reasons for these denials.

The rules further stipulate:

Instances when the requested change of sponsoring Registrar may be denied include, but are not limited to:

1) Situations described in the Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy

2) A pending bankruptcy of the SLD Holder

3) Dispute over the identity of the SLD Holder

4) Request to transfer sponsorship occurs within the first 60 days after the initial registration with the Registrar

In all cases, the losing Registrar shall respond to the e-mail notice regarding the "transfer" request within five (5) days. Failure to respond will result in a default "approval" of the "transfer."

These provisions support the view that the rules are designed to facilitate transfers, since the gaining registrar need do nothing and the transfer will be approved by default. The insertion by Register.com of a superfluous scheme of verification of the authority to transfer is designed to frustrate the clear intention of the rules in Exhibit B, which is to make transfers as easy as possible.

The inserted text is a sample of the messages that registrants are receiving from Register.com.

--- Begin Transfer Acknowledgement Request Sample from register.com ---

Subject: Your Registrar Transfer Request Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 12:11:19 -0500 From: customersupport@register.com To: <customername>

This message is to confirm your request to transfer the registrar for the domain name(s) below from register.com to another registrar. We hope you'll reconsider and renew your domain name with register.com for an additional year for only $12!

Please click the link below each domain name to renew your registration.

<domainname> https://secure.register.com/renewals/?_crypt_=7494875e5e7e7e6818c81948a84f63 74f7adf84728487d8a819398483938483e

Don't miss out on the benefits register.com is committed to provide you, including:

SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE. Customer service is of paramount importance at register.com, and our goal is to help our customers with their domain name needs every step of the way, 24 hours a day.

EASY MANAGEMENT of all aspects of your online presence. With our Domain Manager, you can make changes to your Web site and account whenever you want to!

CUTTING EDGE TOOLS AND SERVICES. We are continually developing products to meet your growing domain name needs. Your success is our goal! With every domain name registered with register.com, you get personalized email, a customized 3 page Web site, free URL forwarding, and more!

A TERRIFIC VALUE. Comparable packages* will cost you much more at other registrars! Network Solutions: $129 NameSecure: $64.95 Registrars.com: $59.95

Please click the link below each domain name to renew your registration.

<domainname> https://secure.register.com/renewals/?_crypt_=7494875e5e7e7e6818c81948a84f63 74f7adf84728487d8a819398483938483e

If you'd like to proceed with your transfer, please use the reply link(s) below to confirm your intention. Click on each link or copy and paste into your browser window. If you do not confirm by March 31, 2001 5:00 PM EST, the transfer will not be completed. In the event that this occurs, you will need to reinitiate the transfer through the registrar to which you wish to transfer.

<domainname> http://www.register.com/trans/?crypt=7494875e5e7e7e6818c81948a84f6374f7adf84 728487d8a819398483938483e

If you have any further questions, please contact register.com.

*Products and services contained in different registrars' domain name packages may vary.

Customer Support register.com, inc. http://www.register.com

--- End Transfer Acknowledgement Request Sample from register.com ---

Tucows observes that this process is as confusing as Register.com can make it. There is no authority for the process, for the time limit within the process, or for the many blandishments not to quit Register.com.

Remedies

Tucows respectfully requests that Verisign

  • Find Register.com in violation of the letter and spirit of the terms of Exhibit B of the Registrar License and Agreement;
  • Immediately Require Register.com to be in compliance with the terms of the Registrar License and Agreement;
  • Immediately require Register.com to desist from imposing the additional and irregular authorizations complained of in this letter;
  • Further require Register.com to desist from engaging in any similar vexatious, anti-competitive and unjustified behaviour that contravenes the RLA;
  • And should Register.com fail to comply with the instructions of Verisign in this regard, terminate the Agreement with Register.com for cause as provided by section 6(1)b.

The whole respectfully submitted by,

Ross Wm. Rader
Director, Innovation & Research
Tucows Inc.

cc; Dan Halloran, Chief Registrar Liaison, ICANN
Jack Kerins, Vice President, Customer Service, Register.com
Brenda Lazare, General Counsel, Tucows
Timothy Denton, External Counsel, Policy, Tucows
Elliot Noss, President & CEO, Tucows
Tucows Reseller Discussion List

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