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Tim Cole Interview: RAA Success Stories Q & A

1 September 2010

What is the 2009 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)?

The Registrar Accreditation Agreement is a contract between registrars and ICANN. Only registrars that have been approved by ICANN can enter into this agreement and become eligible to sell gTLD domain name registrations. In May 2009, the ICANN Board approved a new version of the RAA. All ICANN-accredited registrars have signed some form of the RAA, but since ICANN adopted the new RAA in May 2009, we’ve been encouraging registrars to sign on to the new version.

How is the 2009 RAA different from the older version of the RAA?

The previous version of the RAA was adopted in 2001 and, in some respects, was no longer sufficient to address some of the developments in the domain registration marketplace. Under the 2001 agreement, the primary recourse ICANN had if a registrar violated the RAA was to terminate the registrar’s RAA. This could be a drastic option that might do more harm to registrants. Under the 2009 RAA, we have sanctions, such as temporary suspensions, that aren’t as extreme as terminations. The 2009 RAA has a number of additional registrant protections that include added requirements for registrar data escrow and improvements in contact requirements—registrars must publish their contact details in an easily accessible online place.

We’re also developing an online training component for registrars that covers their obligations to follow ICANN policies and agreements. Overall, changes to the RAA fall into four categories: Registrant Protection, Enforcement Tools, Promotion of Stable and Competitive Marketplace, and Agreement Modernization.

Why did ICANN introduce the 2009 RAA?

Much of the impetus for the creation of the new RAA came about when serious problems arose concerning a registrar that was going out of business. Many registrants suffered because of this registrar’s actions. This prompted ICANN to explore how we could better prevent such registrar behavior and business failures and to take steps, when appropriate, to terminate a registrar in such a way that registrants are protected during the process.

How do registrars benefit from the 2009 RAA?

There are improvements in how registrars pay their fees to ICANN. For example, payments of annual fees may now be spread out over the course of a year. There are also financial incentives for registrars who sign up for the new RAA. The ICANN Board has approved reductions in certain fees for Registrars who have signed the May 2009 RAA. Other non-monetary incentives have also been introduced. But primarily, registrars that already follow ICANN policies and sound business practices benefit from public recognition of the enhanced registrant protections they offer and by the fact that bad actors can be more readily stopped, which enhances the competitive marketplace for all registrars.

How do registrants benefit from the 2009 RAA?

The big benefit is that the new RAA provides greater protections for registrants. Under the 2009 RAA, registrars agree to follow enhanced compliance provisions that protect registrants. And ICANN has enhanced options for taking action when a registrar fails to abide by provisions of the agreement and other ICANN policies.

How is the new RAA catching on with registrars?

Since the 2009 introduction of the new RAA, over 700 registrars, out of a total of about 960 registrars, have signed up. These registrars under the new RAA represent over 95% of all gTLD domain names registered.

How do registrars enter the new RAA?

There are three ways a Registrar can enter the new RAA.

  1. Any new registrar that’s signed up since May 2009 is automatically subject to new RAA provisions.
  2. All registrars’ contracts have a five year term. At the end of five years, to remain ICANN accredited, a registrar must renew its contract. All renewing registrars get the 2009 RAA.
  3. Registrars can voluntarily adopt the 2009 RAA before their renewal dates. To date, about 50% of all registrars covered by the 2009 RAA voluntarily signed up for it before the expiration of their former RAA.

How have registrants responded to the 2009 RAA?

We’ve had registrants contact us asking about whether or not their registrar is covered under the 2009 RAA. Registrants have also asked how to find out which registrars have signed the new agreement. As consumers, they want to use a registrar with the greatest protection, and those are the registrars under the 2009 RAA.

How can registrants determine which registrars are covered by the new RAA?

Registrants can go to the InterNIC listing at http://www.internic.net/regist.html, where they can view listings of registrars arranged by registrars’ names, locations, and languages supported. All registrars who have signed the 2009 RAA have an “ICANN 2009 RAA” logo next to their name listing. ICANN also maintains a list of accredited registrars at http://www.icann.org/en/registrars/accredited-list.html that also identifies the RAA version for each registrar.

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