Australian Domain Register Pty Ltd fooled domain registrants into .com registrations

Domain Register Pty Ltd is an Australian company, operating a “domain notification” scheme; according to Netregistry Australia, that explains what happened to its customers:

“This group seems to have harvested the postal address information of several domain owners and has been sending them domain registration forms disguised as domain renewal forms. The group seem to have searched the public WHOIS database for ACN/ABN details of .au domain owners  and have then used those details to search for the postal address of these businesses.

After acquiring this information, the group is sending out letters to .au domain owners which suggest to that they may lose their domain name unless they make a payment and renew their domain. The letters are misleading in that they are in fact asking domain owners to register a new domain name that is similar to their current domain name (a .com version of their domain for example) but the wording used in the letters sound like the domain owner will lose their current domain name if they do not act fast and make the payment to this group.”

While this warning was sent out in 2013, the current situation finds Consumer Affairs Victoria pushing for thousands of Domain Register Pty Ltd customers to gain the right to refunds in Federal Court legal action.

The action alleges that unsolicited notices fooled businesses into believing they were paying a $249 AUD renewal for their existing domain names, rather than to secure a separate .com equivalent. The company is denying these allegations, stating that the letters were offers, not invoices.

Domain Register made $7.7 million AUD from 31,000 domain registrations and renewals from January 1, 2011, to May 30, 2014, according to the Australian court hearing the case. The company charges a fee for facilitating domain name registrations.

Recipients of the letters were apparently fooled into thinking they were paying a fee to stop their existing domain name from expiring. Consumer Affairs Victoria is seeking penalties, an order covering refunds for other consumers, injunctions, a publication order and costs.

For full coverage, visit The Advertiser of Adelaide, Australia.

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